On Friday, the Villanova Wildcats took down the Mississippi State Bulldogs, 83-76, in the semifinals of the Myrtle Beach Invitational. Freshman forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl led the way for Villanova, scoring 22 points on 9-12 shooting, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out three assists.
The Wildcats and Bulldogs started off the game evenly with both squads exchanging buckets. Junior guard Collin Gillespie started especially hot, scoring 11 of Villanova’s first 14 points and giving the Wildcats a 14-11 advantage after seven minutes of play. Gillespie would go on to finish with 18 points and added nine assists – but contributed six turnovers.
The even play continued through the first half and a layup from sophomore Reggie Perry put Mississippi State ahead, 22-18. The Wildcats responded quickly with a 16-0 run to take a 34-22 lead with five minutes left in the half. Mississippi State started to fight back, but, with just over two seconds remaining in the first half, Villanova drew up the play of the game. Sophomore Saddiq Bey threw a full court pass out of a timeout to Robinson-Earl. The big man quickly flipped it to Gillespie who hit the three as time expired to give Villanova a 42-33 halftime lead.
After the break the Bulldogs fought back, cutting the Wildcats lead to just 51-50 on a three from senior guard Tyson Carter. Fittingly, Robinson-Earl responded with a three of his own, his only of the game, to put the Wildcats up for good. The Bulldogs would threaten again with the use of a full-court press in the final minutes, but Villanova weathered the storm and held on for the win.
Bey and junior Jermaine Samuels were the other Wildcats who finished in double digits. Bey added 17 points, seven rebounds and three assists while Samuels chipped in 14 points, five rebounds and two assists.
As a team, Villanova shot 10-24 (41.7%) from three, while holding Mississippi State to 8-22 (36.4%) from deep.
Villanova will play the winner of Baylor and Coastal Carolina in the championship of the Myrtle Beach Invitational on Sunday at 5:00 p.m.