Villanova 3-pointers sink SDSU in overtime
SOUTH BEND — First came the stalemate.
Then, another stalemate.
Less than 10 minutes before tip-off in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, Villanova and South Dakota State’s bands faced each other at opposite ends of the Purcell Pavilion court, locked in a game of musical chicken in which both sides refused to flinch. They played simultaneously — combatively — producing a deafening, indistinguishable deluge of horns and percussion.
In a symphonic staring contest, there was no clear victor.
Then, the game started, and the superior side was equally unclear.
Trailing 68-65 in the waning seconds of regulation on Friday, South Dakota State junior guard Madison Guebert took a pass, angled a desperate heave around the arms of multiple defenders and banked in an improbable 3-pointer as time expired.
“We executed our play really well, set good screens, moved the ball effectively … and then just had to get it up there,” said Guebert, who finished with 21 points and three 3-pointers.
“When I saw that shot go in my heart sank and I just couldn’t believe that we were going to continue playing the game,” added Villanova guard Adrianna Hahn.
Thankfully for Villanova, Hahn answered with a 3-pointer of her own. Junior forward Jannah Tucker — a 6-foot junior forward and Tennessee transfer — knocked in consecutive threes in the overtime period, then Hahn added another to punctuate a decisive 9-0 Wildcat run. Ninth-seeded Villanova (23-8) held on for an 81-74 victory over South Dakota State (26-7).
Villanova will meet top-seed Notre Dame in the second round on Sunday at 7 p.m.
“I just thought it was a great game,” said Henry Perretta, Villanova’s 40th-year head coach. “If you were watching it, it was entertaining. Both teams made tough shots. Both teams made runs. It was just a fun game to play in. For an 8-9 seed, it was a perfect game.”
It was certainly an unusual game for Villanova, which shot 32.9 percent from beyond the arc and averaged 8.7 made 3-pointers per game during the regular season. The Wildcats shot 42.1 percent from distance on Friday, pouring in 10 3-pointers in the first half and 16 overall.
“The bottom line is we can’t post,” Perretta explained after the win. “We don’t have a strong post player, so we have to shoot perimeter shots.
“If I’m going to shoot a 15-footer, I might as well shoot a 3. That’s the way I look at it. I thought we needed to make 12 or more to win.”
Turns out, the Wildcats made 13 3-pointers in regulation on Friday and three more in overtime. Hahn led the way, connecting on 6 of 12 threes en route to a team-high 24 points. Tucker added 20 points and six more 3-pointers.
The eighth-seeded Jackrabbits, on the other hand, made just 3 of 16 shots from distance (18.8 percent) after connecting at a 36.7 percent clip in the regular season.
“We’re just a better shooting team than that,” Johnston said. “We just couldn’t get any of them to really go.”
Still, South Dakota State mounted a late comeback, using an 8-0 run to shrink the deficit to 56-55. Eleven of the Jackrabbits’ 17 made free throws came in the fourth quarter, and guards Guebert and Macy Miller combined for 19 of their team’s 26 fourth quarter points to force an extra frame.
Miller led the Jackrabbits with 25 points and eight rebounds, while Guebert added 21 points in a whopping 43 minutes.
But, though it took 45 minutes in all, Villanova secured its first NCAA Tournament win since 2004 and its first victory inside Purcell Pavilion since 2002.
That must sound like music to Perretta’s ears.