Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats are in the Final Four once again. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the health of Justin Moore is up in the air, and it does not sound good for Villanova’s junior guard.
Villanova’s odds of winning its third National Championship since 2016 may hinge on whether or not Moore can play, and it’s worth noting that Wright does not seem optimistic.
Justin Moore’s injury overshadowed Villanova’s Elite Eight win
As the celebration began and Houston walked off the court dejected, guard Collin Gillespie ran over to the end of the Villanova bench to celebrate with Moore, who had limped off the court just minutes before and sat in his seat at the final whistle.
It had to have been a bittersweet moment for Moore. His team advanced to the Final Four over a tough Houston Cougars team and he played a big role in the win.
He played 37 minutes, most on the team, and contributed eight points, two rebounds, a steal, and a block.
Unfortunately, Moore wasn’t able to finish the game with the Wildcats, and he got tantalizingly close, which made the injury even worse. He slipped and fell while attempting a drive with just 35 seconds left and his team up 48-44. He was going in for the kill but suffered a non-contact injury while planting his left leg to make the drive.
He fell to the floor and Houston was able to jump on the ball to gain possession. All is well that ends well for Villanova because the Cougars weren’t able to capitalize as Taze Moore missed a layup at the other end, and Gillespie’s two made free throws essentially iced the game.
So yes, it was bittersweet. Villanova got the win, but Moore had to watch in agony from his seat at the end of the bench.
“I don’t ever want to see him by himself. He’s done so much for his team, always guards the best player, is one of our best offensive players and will do anything for any one of our guys on either end of the floor,” Gillespie said after the game, according to ESPN.
“A lot of our guys ran right over to him because we’re not in the position that we are without him. So we just wanted to go over to him and just appreciate what he does for us and know that we got his back.”
Jay Wright did not seem optimistic about a return for Moore
The good news is that Moore didn’t break any bones. Wright knew that much after the game.
Moore will undergo more testing as the Wildcats wait in preparation for their final four matchup and opponent, but it doesn’t sound like Villanova’s head coach is expecting his second-leading scorer will return for the Final Four.
“It’s probably not good for Justin,” Wright said. “We’re going to get an MRI when we get back. But it’s probably not good.”
If Wright’s hunch is true, that’s terrible news for Villanova.
Gillespie has been the team leader in points this season, scoring 15.6 points per contest, but Moore has been right behind him with 14.8 per game.
He leads the team in minutes played per game (34.6) and is the team’s third-best rebounder (4.8), and second-best assist man (2.3).
Perhaps no player is more important to this Villanova squad outside of Gillespie.
Villanova is going to be Jermaine Samuels to be even better
Jermaine Samuels has been excellent in March, and the Wildcats will need that continue now that Moore’s status for the Final Four is in jeopardy.
The senior forward has averaged 11.1 points and 6.5 rebounds this season, but he’s been exceptional since ‘Nova’s Big East Tournament Semifinal win over UConn when he led the team with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
Samuels has averaged 17.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in March Madness, including 22 points and seven rebounds (also two blocks) in Villanova’s win against Michigan and 16 points and 10 rebounds in the win over Houston.
He was named the Most Outstanding Player in the South Region of the Tournament, and it was an honor that was well deserved.
Villanova will need him to keep that MOP energy up in the Final Four, though.
In a tournament where even something as small as a tipped pass can be the difference between moving on or going home, there’s no way Villanova won’t feel the absence of Moore.
The Wildcats will need players like Samuels and Gillespie to fill that void.