Villanova holds off Texas Tech, advances to second Final Four in three seasons

Elsa/Getty Images
1 Comment

BOSTON — Gamesmenship.


Scare Tactics.

Whatever you want to call it, that’s what was happening on Saturday afternoon in the bowels of Boston’s TD Garden.

Texas Tech’s basketball program traveled with a massive speaker to the East Regional. Since the NCAA limited the amount of time that the Red Raiders were allowed to have on the practice court during the off-day before the start of the Elite Eight, Tech made the decision that they were going to maximize those minutes by warming up and stretching before they actually made it to the floor.

So they set that speaker up in the hallway and did what they needed to do to get loose.

While blasting music that pulsated throughout the arena, including into Villanova’s locker room, which was less than 100 feet down the hallway. This wasn’t just an attempt at trying to rattle Villanova — loud music is just what Texas Tech does — but if you don’t think that the Red Raiders knew what the by-product of that music would be, then you probably don’t think that the Little Giants popping a few Alka Seltzers was an attempt at intimidation, either.

It may have backfired.

“I was bobbing my head. It was good music,” Villanova’s resident veteran Phil Booth said. “It got me a little hyped up. You were probably thinking [I would say] something else, but that doesn’t bother us at all.”

It wasn’t the first time that Villanova had one of the “beasts of the Big 12,” as Booth put it, try to do something to get into their heads. In Friday’s Sweet 16 matchup with West Virginia, Daxter Miles was jabbering throughout the first half and Jevon Carter was doing all the things that Jevon Carter does. Sagaba Konate, after he blocked Mikal Bridges on a dunk attempt, wagged his finger at the crowd and, after a timeout a couple of minutes later, tried to eavesdrop on a Villanova huddle.

Again, it may have backfired.

“Don’t do that, man,” Booth said to Konate as he slowly walked him back. The only member of the Villanova huddle that actually reacted was assistant coach Kyle Neptune, and he didn’t do much more than yell.

You can try your damnedest, but this Villanova team, they don’t rattle.

It’s part of the reason they were able to land a win on Sunday afternoon, in a game where they did exactly what we thought would cost them a chance at a national title: Throw up bricks for 40 minutes.

(Elsa/Getty Images)

As ugly as Sunday’s win was, as unappealing as it is to see two teams struggle to crack 35 percent shooting from three and 25 percent shooting from beyond the arc, there was a certain comfort that the East’s No. 1-seed Villanova and their head coach, Jay Wright, can feel after knocking off No. 3-seed Texas Tech.

They won this game in the most un-Villanova way possible.

They played a team that loves themselves a good rock fight and beat them at their own game.

You see, no one in college basketball shoots more threes than Villanova does.

Well, that’s not exactly true. Out of the 351 teams in the sport, there are 11 that shoot a higher percentage of their field goal attempts from beyond the three-point line. There are 14 that get a higher percentage of their points off of three-pointers. There are eight that shoot a higher percentage on those three-point attempts. And just one of the teams above them played in the NCAA tournament this year — Davidson.

So maybe I should rephrase that.

Villanova doesn’t shoot more threes than anyone in college basketball, they just shoot more threes than anyone in college basketball that was actually good this year.

And on Sunday, in their 71-59 win over Texas Tech, the Wildcats shot the ball like a Church League team playing on a Sunday morning after a three-day bender than the team sitting atop KenPom’s rankings and heading to their second Final Four in the last three years. They were 4-for-24 from beyond the arc, a cool 17 percent, while making just 33 percent of their shots from the floor. The Wildcats, on the season, are not only college basketball’s most efficient offense, but they’ve been one of the most efficient offenses that we’ve ever seen in the sport.

Put another way, this team wins because they get buckets better than anyone in recent memory has gotten buckets. And the question all season long has been what will happen if and when they have an off-night in March.

We got the answer Sunday.

Villanova grabbed a season-high 20 offensive rebounds on Sunday, none more emphatic that Donte DiVincenzo’s tip-dunk in the second half. They held Texas Tech to 34 percent shooting from the floor and a 5-for-19 night from three. They kept the Red Raiders, who appeared to have the size and athleticism advantage, from doing all that much damage in the paint; The Red Raiders shot just 6-for-23 on layups, with Villanova providing just enough rim protection that Texas Tech’s second half surges never really got going.

And that, in the end, was the biggest theme of the afternoon. Villanova did not play all that well, but every time it felt like Chris Beard’s club was going to make a run at this thing, they made a play to keep them at arm’s length.

Here’s what I mean: With a little more than five minutes left on the clock and Villanova’s lead cut to five points for the first time since there was 6:33 left in the first half, Texas Tech’s Zach Smith — one of the best athletes you’ll ever see play the sport of basketball — had a shot around the rim blocked by Eric Paschall when it looked like Smith had him beat. Jalen Brunson corralled the loose ball and found a streaking Phil Booth for a layup at the other end of the floor that pushed Villanova’s back to seven points.

DiVincenzo’s put-back dunk was exactly the same kind of thing. Tech had again cut the lead to five points when he slammed home a missed three from Mikal Bridges.

And that, at the end of the day, was the difference.

(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

“We were playing well offensively throughout the whole year,” DiVincenzo said. “But we knew that we can’t just get by on offense. We were going to run into a team that can really lock down and not hit shots.”

“Coach has been talking about it all year. We’ve done it to an extent through the tournament, but we ran into a team today and we weren’t making shots. We had to grind with them.”

For a team that has built their brand around their offense, around a free-flowing, position-less style of basketball that is based on the fact that everyone on the roster can shoot and they can just as easily post their point guard and let their center bang threes as vice versa, this is their warning shot.

You’re not going to be able to punk Villanova.

“We can’t let them get in our head,” Booth said. “That’s what they want.”

“That comes from coach and that comes from our leaders,” DiVincenzo added. “Those guys never show emotion. They never flinch. They stick to what we do.”

But we’ve known this, particularly with Jalen Brunson. As Xavier head coach Chris Mack famously said earlier this season, “If you peeled his face off you’d probably have wires coming out.”

That wasn’t the case on Sunday.

“He cracked a smile tonight when he looked at me,” Divincenzo said, a grin stretching ear-to-ear.

“First one in a long time.”

College basketball broadcaster Billy Packer dies at 82

billy packer
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
1 Comment

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Billy Packer, an Emmy award-winning college basketball broadcaster who covered 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS, died Thursday. He was 82.

Packer’s son, Mark, told The Associated Press that his father had been hospitalized in Charlotte for the past three weeks and had several medical issues, and ultimately succumbed to kidney failure.

Packer’s broadcasting career coincided with the growth of college basketball. He worked as analyst or color commentator on every Final Four from 1975 to 2008. He received a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio and Sports Analyst in 1993.

“He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours,” Mark Packer said. “He timed it right. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him. And then college basketball just sort of took off with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to just go crazy with March Madness.”

Packer played three seasons at Wake Forest, and helped lead the Demon Deacons to the Final Four in 1962, but it was his work as an analyst that brought him the most acclaim.

He joined NBC in 1974 and called his first Final Four in 1975. UCLA beat Kentucky in the title game that year in what was John Wooden’s final game as coach.

Packer was also part of the broadcast in 1979 with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State squad in the title game. That remains highest-rated game in basketball history with a 24.1 Nielsen rating, which is an estimated 35.1 million viewers.

Packer went to CBS in the fall of 1981, when the network acquired the rights to the NCAA Tournament. He remained the network’s main analyst until the 2008 Final Four.

In 1996 at CBS, Packer was involved in controversy when he used the term “tough monkey? to describe then-Georgetown star Allen Iverson during a game. Packer later said he “was not apologizing for what I said, because what I said has no implications in my mind whatsoever to do with Allen Iverson’s race.?

Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said Packer was “synonymous with college basketball for more than three decades and set the standard of excellence as the voice of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.”

“He had a tremendous impact on the growth and popularity of the sport.” McManus said. “In true Billy fashion, he analyzed the game with his own unique style, perspective and opinions, yet always kept the focus on the game. As passionate as he was about basketball, at his heart Billy was a family man. He leaves part of his legacy at CBS Sports, across college basketball and, most importantly, as a beloved husband, father and grandfather. He will be deeply missed by all.”

Packer was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale took to Twitter as word of Packer’s death spread. “So sad to learn of the passing of Billy Packer who had such a passion for college basketball,” Vitale tweeted. “My (prayers) go out to Billy’s son Mark & the entire Packer family. Always had great RESPECT for Billy & his partners Dick Enberg & Al McGuire-they were super. May Billy RIP.”

College basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted: “We fell in love (with) college basketball because of you. Your voice will remain in my head forever.”

Packer was viewed as a controversial figure during his broadcasting days, often drawing the ire of college basketball fans, particularly on North Carolina’s “Tobacco Road.”

“As a kid, I was a big NC State fan growing up, and I would watch a game and the next day I’d be like, `Boy you sure have it out for NC State, don’t you?’ And he would just laugh,” Mark Packer said.

The younger Packer, who is the host of ACC PM on the ACC Network, said it didn’t matter what school – most fans felt the same way about his father.

“He would cover North Carolina game and Tar Heels fans would be like, `you hate North Carolina,”‘ Mark Packer said. “Wake (Forest) fans would be like, `you hate us.’ And Billy just sort of got a kick out of that.”

Mark Packer said that while most fans will remember his father as a broadcaster, he’ll remember him even more for his business acumen. He said his father was a big real estate investor, and also owned a vape company, among other ventures.

“Billy was always a bit of a hustler – he was always looking for that next business deal,” Packer said.

Clemson starter Galloway will miss time after surgery

brevin galloway
John Byrum/Getty Images

CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson starter Brevin Galloway is expected to miss games for the 24th-ranked Tigers after having surgery on his groin area Thursday.

The 6-foot-3 Galloway has started 20 of 21 games after transferring from Boston College this past offseason.

Galloway posted on social media that he’d had the surgery. Clemson coach Brad Brownell confirmed in a text to The Associated Press that Galloway had the operation.

Galloway said in his post he will be in uniform soon. He is not expected to play at Florida State on Saturday.

A fifth-year player, Galloway has averaged 10.6 points a game this season. He’s second on the Tigers with 55 assists and 18 steals.

The Tigers (17-4) lead the Atlantic Coast Conference at 9-1 in league play.

Clemson is already down two experienced players due to injury.

Point guard Chase Hunter, who started the team’s first 18 games, has missed the past three with a foot injury.

Guard Alex Hemenway, in his fourth season, has missed the past nine games with a foot injury. Hemenway was the team’s leading 3-point shooter (27 of 54) before getting hurt.

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

purdue basketball

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”


The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.


Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.


The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.


Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.

Miller scores 23, No. 10 Maryland tops No. 13 Michigan 72-64

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Diamond Miller scored 23 points, and No. 10 Maryland closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run and led the rest of the way in a 72-64 victory over No. 13 Michigan on Thursday night.

Abby Meyers contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (17-4, 8-2), who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Lavender Briggs scored 14 points and Shyanne Sellers added 13.

Maryland gained a measure of revenge after losing twice to Michigan last season – including a 20-point rout in College Park.

Leigha Brown led the Wolverines with 16 points.

Michigan (16-5, 6-4) led 13-9 in the first quarter before a three-point play by Miller started Maryland’s big run. Briggs and Faith Masonius made 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Terps pushed the lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Wolverines were able to chip away. Miller sat for a bit with four fouls, and Michigan cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines still wasted too many possessions with turnovers to mount much of a comeback.

Michigan ended up with 24 turnovers, and Maryland had a 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Miller fouled out with 2:19 remaining, but even after those two free throws, the Terps led 65-57 and had little trouble holding on.

Michigan lost for the second time in four days against a top-10 opponent. No. 6 Indiana beat the Wolverines 92-83 on Monday.


Michigan: Whether it was against Maryland’s press or in their half-court offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over too much to score consistently. This was a lower-scoring game than the loss to Indiana, but the margin ended up being similar.

Maryland: While Miller clearly led the way, the Terps had plenty of offensive contributors. They also held Michigan to 13 points below its season average entering the game.


The Wolverines have appeared in 48 straight AP polls, and although a two-loss week could certainly drop them, the quality of their opponents could save them from a substantial plunge.

Maryland is tied for 10th with an Iowa team that beat No. 2 Ohio State on Monday night. Now the Terps can boast an impressive victory of their own.


Michigan: The Wolverines play their third game of the week when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Maryland: The Terps host Penn State on Monday night.


Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.


Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.


Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.