BOSTON — A look at the NCAA East Regional championship game between No. 1 seed Villanova (32-4) and No. 3 Texas Tech (27-9), scheduled for 2:20 p.m. Sunday at TD Garden.
The Wildcats took their share of body blows from West Virginia’s press but managed to find the holes in the defense in the final 11 minutes of their 90-78 victory. They were better from three-point range (54.2 percent) than two-point (46.7 percent). Texas Tech is a lockdown team on defense, and the Cats must keep the basketball moving. They also need to duplicate their Friday night performance on the boards, having the guards come back to help the big men. Guards Phil Booth and Donte DiVincenzo each grabbed six rebounds against WVU.
Texas Tech keys
The Red Raiders worked their way through the difficult Big 12 schedule with an 11-7 record, tying them for second with West Virginia, and have the second-most wins in program history. They will try to wear down Villanova with a 10-man rotation, including five guards who stand 6-5 or 6-6. Their defense forced more than 15 turnovers during the season and ranks 13th in the nation in field-goal percentage against (40.3 percent) and 15th in points allowed (64.6 per game). Offensively, they are led by senior guard Keenan Evans, who averages 17.7 points.
The Villanova defense picked up its intensity in Friday’s second half, limiting West Virginia to 30.8 percent shooting and playing the Mountaineers to a near-standstill on the boards. The Wildcats need to keep an eye on Evans, who shoots 48 percent from the floor and gets to the foul line nearly seven times per game. Texas Tech has held its three NCAA tournament opponents in the 60s, averaging 63.9 points allowed. The Red Raiders limited Stephen F. Austin and Florida to less than 40 percent shooting and forced Purdue into 17 turnovers.
Villanova has knocked down 44 three-point baskets, an NCAA tournament record for three games, and needs 11 to break the single-season Division I record of 442 set in 2006-07 by Virginia Military Institute. The Wildcats are in the top 10 nationally in all three shooting percentage categories – from the field and on three-pointers and free throws. The Red Raiders aren’t a prolific three-point shooting team, averaging just 6.9 and making just 5 of 17 on Friday night. Freshman Zhaire Smith hits shots at a 56.5 percent clip.
The Wildcats might have played their best game of the tournament on Friday night, and it definitely was their most exhausting. Whether they’ll have their legs back for Sunday is a major question. The focus will be on Jalen Brunson, who played 37 minutes with WVU’s Jevon Carter in his face all night. The Red Raiders are trying to follow the example of South Carolina last season, coming out of nowhere to make the Final Four for the first time. They are certainly loose – music blasted over the speakers at TD Garden during their practice Saturday.