PITTSBURGH - Villanova's players, coaches, and staff sat in a hotel meeting room after their victory over Lafayette, watching television and waiting for their next opponent in the NCAA East Regional to step forward.
North Carolina State hung around Thursday night until one-tenth of a second remained to take that step when BeeJay Anya's shot in the lane lingered on the rim and dropped in for his team's only lead of the second half. The 66-65 win over Louisiana State meant a third-round matchup Saturday night against the top-seeded Wildcats at Consol Energy Center.
"We're watching that, we're thinking we're playing LSU," Villanova coach Jay Wright said Friday. "Halfway through, we were talking about LSU, what they did. Then we started saying, 'Whoa, let's start looking at N.C. State here, pay attention.' So that was advantageous for us. When we met this morning, they had a feel because we were talking about it."
The Wolfpack (21-13), seeded eighth, came back from a 16-point second-half deficit by getting help from an unlikely source - their young and deep frontcourt. That gives Wright and his coaches something else to worry about besides the three excellent guards that carry N.C. State on offense.
Sophomores Anya, Lennard Freeman, and Kyle Washington and freshman Malik Abu combined for 21 of the Wolfpack's 40 second-half points. The quartet had combined to average 21 points per game entering the NCAAs.
"Any other big wins you've seen them have, it's because the guards make the plays," Wright said. "I think they've developed a great balance. I'm sure that's what they've been going for all year.
"What we have to be concerned about is, it's not what they've done all year. It's what they did in that second half and how much that's going to be a factor in the game. I think we've got to play them more like a balanced team than we do play them than just those three guards."
The guards - junior Trevor Lacey, senior Ralston Turner, and sophomore Anthony "Cat" Barber - have led the offense but struggled against LSU, going a combined 15 of 45 from the field and making just 4 of 21 tries from three-point range.
"That's exactly what concerns me," Wright said. "They're good shooters."
The Wildcats (33-2), riding a 16-game winning streak, were much more accurate from long range in their 93-52 opening victory over Lafayette. They went 11 of 22 from deep, with Ryan Arcidiacono and Dylan Ennis sinking three treys apiece.
State coach Mark Gottfried said his chief concern is having the Wildcats spread out his defense around the three-point line. He likes to play two bigs at all times.
"That will be a difficult thing for us to match up against," Gottfried said. "We've got to do a great job of eliminating the open looks. I think a lot of it starts with their dribble penetration. They create penetration off the ball screens and just using their quickness.
"One thing they do that I think goes unnoticed with Jay's team is how well they move the ball. They find the next shooter pretty well and they trust that next pass is going to find a good shooter that's going to make a shot. We have to be aware of that."
The Wolfpack, who were knocked out of the ACC tournament in the second round, have played the sixth-most difficult schedule in the country, with 13 games against NCAA teams. They went just 4-9 in those contests but handed Duke its first loss of the season on Jan. 11.