LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Need any more proof that this Villanova team is different from the ones that provided past NCAA tournament heartbreak? Look no further than Daniel Ochefu's play to start Thursday's second half.
That’s when the Wildcats broke open a tight game and gained the cushion they’d keep in their 92-69 victory over Miami to advance to the South region final. Nova will face the winner of Kansas-Maryland.
Ochefu appeared to tweak his knee while defending Miami’s Tonye Jekiri on the first possession of the second half. He limped down the floor.
He limped from posting up in the paint to set a screen for Ryan Arcidiacono. He didn’t even have the strength to roll to the basket, although he had a clear path and likely easy score. He stood stoic around the free throw line, wincing in pain.
Oddly enough, he had the ball anyway with the shot clock running down and was forced to launch it before the buzzer sounded. He made a set shot with Jekiri sagging in the lane.
Miami point guard Angel Rodriguez appeared to have sensed Ochefu’s injury. On the ensuing trip down the floor, Rodriguez drove past his defender and went right at the 6-foot-11 senior center.
Bad leg and all, Ochefu did enough to alter Rodriguez's shot, and Nova coach Jay Wright was able to sub him out of the game.
Ochefu’s exchange summed up the entire game for the Wildcats. They appeared to make every hustle play and grab every loose rebound.
The Wildcats had one of the worst offensive-rebounding percentages of the teams in the Sweet 16, but Thursday, they snatched nine of their 19 missed shots -- or 47 percent -- which was well above their season average of 28.4 percent.
Villanova might advance to the Final Four in its game Saturday, but judging from Thursday’s victory, it won’t be because the Wildcats aren't fighting to get there.