Go to enough Villanova news conferences and it becomes evident very quickly that coach Jay Wright preaches certain things, day in and day out. It's almost a robotic, formulaic answer from Wildcats players: Attitude. Villanova basketball.
Villanova rarely strays from its principles, and it has led them back to a familiar place for the Wildcats -- they're headed to their third Final Four in the past six NCAA tournaments, with a chance to win their third national championship over that same stretch.
In a grind-it-out affair at the AT&T Center on Saturday night, 2-seed Villanova got out to an early lead over 5-seed Houston, never trailed and pulled away in the final minutes for a 50-44 win.
Villanova shot just 28.8% (15-for-52) from the field, making it the first team to win an Elite Eight game while shooting under 30% from the floor since UCLA in 1971 (29%), according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The Wildcats' 50 points were also tied for the fewest ever in an Elite Eight win.
"If you had told me before the game that we're going to hold them to 28% from the field, they're going to shoot 23% from the 3-point line, and we'd lose, I wouldn't have believed you," said Houston coach Kelvin Sampson,
whose Cougars also struggled from the field, shooting 29.8% (17-for-57). "I knew it was going to take a good team to beat us. And a good team did. I thought that was two great cultures out there tonight."
In the Final Four, Villanova will face the winner of Sunday's game between Kansas and Miami.
Jermaine Samuels led the way for the Wildcats with 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Caleb Daniels came off the bench to score 12 points. Taze Moore was the top scorer for Houston, going for 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Houston had landed the first punch against every team it had played in the NCAA tournament until this point. The Cougars were up 31-14 on UAB after 10 minutes, 16-9 on Illinois and 19-12 against Arizona.
Wright expected more of the same when asked on Friday afternoon how he planned to prepare his team for Houston's intensity and physicality from the opening tip.