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Villanova advances to Elite Eight with romp over Miami

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Jay Wright knows that Ryan Arcidiacono has a knack for giving Villanova what he thinks the team needs when the game starts, whether it's setting up plays for his teammates or getting up in an opponent's grill on defense.

Villanova's Daniel Ochefu dunks the basketball past Miami's Kamari
Murphy.
Villanova's Daniel Ochefu dunks the basketball past Miami's Kamari Murphy.Read more(Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Jay Wright knows that Ryan Arcidiacono has a knack for giving Villanova what he thinks the team needs when the game starts, whether it's setting up plays for his teammates or getting up in an opponent's grill on defense.

But Thursday night, with the Wildcats in the Sweet 16 for the first time in seven years, Arcidiacono, the senior guard playing in a record 141st game, came out against Miami looking at the basket and firing, setting the tone for what would be a third consecutive romp in the NCAA South Regional.

Arcidiacono scored 13 of his 21 points less than nine minutes after the opening tip, and Kris Jenkins also had 21, including five three-point baskets, to lift the second-seeded Wildcats into the Elite Eight with a 92-69 victory over the No. 3 seed Hurricanes at the KFC Yum! Center.

The Cats (32-5) will play for a spot in their first Final Four since 2009 Saturday night against No. 1 Kansas, which defeated fifth-seeded Maryland, 77-63.

After ending a long drought and advancing past the first weekend of the tournament last weekend, Villanova played free and easy in continuing its domination in the Big Dance. The Cats shot 62.7 percent from the field and 66.7 percent (10 of 15) from three-point range.

Daniel Ochefu, who shook off an ankle injury at the start of the second half, scored 17 points, and Josh Hart added 14. But it was Arcidiacono, who went 7 of 11 from the field and hit four three-point baskets, who got his team rolling.

"I wanted to be aggressive from the start," he said. "We did a great baseline out-of-bounds play to get me going. Then I was just being aggressive for plays that were called for me and just read the defense. I think I was making the right play at that time."

Wright has seen it all before.

"He just has a way of knowing what the team needs at each individual time," he said. "I haven't gotten to talk to him about it yet. But I'm sure he thought, 'OK, we're in the Sweet 16. I'm a senior. I'm going to make sure we get going the right way.' "

In the first 8 minutes, 51 seconds, Arcidiacono hit two three-pointers, a conventional three-point play, a short jumper, and two free throws and outscored Miami by himself in giving the Wildcats a 20-10 lead. Villanova extended the margin to 15, 29-14, on Jenkins' three-point basket.

The Hurricanes (27-8) followed with their best stretch of the game, going on a 12-0 run in 2:07 behind a pair of three-pointers each from Sheldon McClellan (a game-high 26 points) and Angel Rodriguez (13). They later drew to within one, 31-30, with 4:32 left in the half before the Wildcats inched the margin back to 43-37 at the half.

The second half, however, was all Villanova. Hart scored six points and Arcidiacono five in the early going, and Ochefu's two free throws made it 58-44 with 12:43 to play. Miami never got closer than 10 after that, and scores on seven straight possessions helped 'Nova get the margin to 20 with 4:57 remaining.

After the Hurricanes shot 66.7 percent in the first half, the Cats limited them to 42.3 in the final 20 minutes.

"I'm really pleased with their intensity," Wright said. "You can just see they're hungry. They're hungry to advance. They're hungry to prepare. It's all coming from them. That's when you're a good team."

The Wildcats have defeated three opponents by an average of 24 points in the NCAAs. They are shooting 59.9 percent from the field and 53.2 percent on threes.

The only scare came when Ochefu limped downcourt after attempting to block a shot on Miami's initial second-half possession, hurting the right ankle that limited him in the Big East tournament. But he reentered at the first TV timeout and showed no ill effects the rest of the night.

"I just tweaked it a little bit," Ochefu said. "I wasn't that nervous, really. I knew I was going to get going. I knew as soon as the adrenaline started rushing, I'd be good. Nothing really serious."

jjuliano@phillynews.com

@joejulesinq

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