By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The long outstretched left hand was too late by the time Donte DiVincenzo flicked the ball high into the Alamodome lights. DiVincenzo’s three-point bucket that pretty much threw down the gauntlet on Michigan was topped with a wink in his right eye as the Villanova sophomore ran back up the court—as if to say he knew it would go in all along.
There was some doubt for about the first 11 minutes of the NCAA championship game Monday night in San Antonio, Texas.
It was about that time when Villanova collectively had enough with Michigan in the NCAA championship. The Wildcats have beaten teams by various ways in the NCAA Tournament, using defense to beat Texas Tech, then raining a record number of three-pointers down on Kansas. In the championship game, the Wildcats found a fine blend of both, topped by a great injection of super sub DiVincenzo, to win its second national championship in three years, beating Michigan easily, 79-62.
With star guard Jalen Brunson strapped to the bench in foul trouble, DiVincenzo stepped to the fore to lead all scorers with 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting.
Villanova (36-4) becomes the first NCAA champion to win two titles in three years since Kentucky won national titles in 1996 and ’98, which was interrupted by Arizona winning the NCAA title in 1997. Duke won consecutive titles in 1991 and ’92 and Florida won consecutive national titles in 2006 and 2007.
These Wildcats also enter the argument as the greatest college basketball team from the Philadelphia area. One thing is certain, no college team in the basketball-rich history of Philadelphia comes close to what Jay Wright and his Wildcats have done the last three years. The Wildcats also made history with the trivial fact that there has never been a Super Bowl champion and NCAA national men’s basketball champion in the same year in the same city—until this year.
Michigan (32-8) denied Villanova the three-point shot in the first half. The Wolverines led, 21-14, with a 11:00 left in the opening half on a Mo Wagner layup. The Wildcats then put the clamps on Wagner, who didn’t score the last nine minutes of the half, after scoring 11 of Michigan’s first 21 points.
Villanova took control of the game by closing the half on a 23-7 run. At the eye of that surge was DiVincenzo the 6-foot-5 sophomore guard who came off the bench to make 7 of 10 shots, including 3-of-4 from three-point range and a free throw for 18 points by halftime.
It took the Wildcats the first 3:56 to make four three-pointers in the 95-79 wipeout of Kansas in the semifinals Saturday night. Villanova needed an entire half to reach four treys against Michigan, making 14-of-31 (45.2%) from the floor, 4-of-13 (3-30.8%) from three-point range and 5-of-6 (83.3%) from the line.
Villanova went into the half leading, 37-28. Over the last 12:44 of the half, DiVincenzo outscored Michigan alone, 18-14. Wildcats outscored Michigan bench 20-3 in the first half, which was primarily DiVincenzo’s 18.
After 6:08 of the half, a DiVincenzo three-pointer gave Villanova a 23-21 lead and Michigan never led again. With 3:51 left in the game, a Mikal Bridges’ three-pointer gave Villanova a 74-52 lead, which was the largest deficit Michigan faced in the tournament. DiVincenzo later maintained that edge, 76-54, by hitting a pair free throws with 3:21 left.
Classes were cancelled Tuesday so students could continue to celebrate the big win.