The greater Philadelphia area is proving to be the greatest at sports recently. Not two months after the Philadelphia Eagles raised their first ever Super Bowl trophy, the Villanova Wildcats — pride of the Main Line (and Radnor, Pa) — raised their second national championship trophy in three years after a convincing 79-62 victory over the Michigan Wolverines.
The Cats cut down the nets for the third time in their history — the first time in history a Super Bowl and D-I basketball championship went to the same city — scheduling yet another parade for center city after one of the most dominating NCAA Tournament’s in recent memory.
And it wasn’t the Naismith Player of the Year award winner (Jalen Brunson) or projected NBA lottery pick (Mikal Bridges) who starred in the victory in San Antonio.
“It’s aways a different guy for us,” Jay Wright would say.
In 2016, no one predicted that Kris Jenkins would become a Philadelphia folk hero. In 2018, certainly no one predicted Donte DiVincenco, a redshirt sophomore coming off the bench, would be the star on college basketball’s biggest stage. A cold start required a spark from someone — and DiVincenco, who initially resisted becoming a sixth man, took advantage of the opportunity and ran with it.
He scored 31 points — and dynamic points at that (18 of them coming in the first half) — were enough to make him the hero Monday night in San Antonio.
Boasting a double-digit lead, built by DiVincenzo’s all around dominance paired with 19 points from Bridges and rebounding dominance (Nova had 38 to Michigan’s 27), the Wildcats looked as though they were a bit gassed trying to recapture the solid play they displayed earlier in the game.
Michigan came out looking well-prepared on defense, closing passing lanes and sticking to Nova like glue — building a modest early seven-point lead out of the starting gates (with Mortiz Wagner netting nine of the Wolverine’s first 11 points). But then off the bench, a three pointer and three the hard way back to back by DiVincenzo closed the gap (he would also add a second three minutes later).
When the Delaware native drilled his third three, it gave Nova it’s first lead of the game, 23-21 just inside the six-minute mark and his fourth made it 28-24. Back to back dunks rom DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman put the Wildcats back where they have been for nearly the entire NCAA tournament — up by a comfortable margin. The advantage for the Wildcats would be nine at the horn.
Nova came out hot, improving to a 44-30 lead before flaring tempers resulted in a double technical foul between Spellman and Wagner. As temperatures cooled, a DiVincenco rebound and traffic and assist to Bridges’ three-pointer gave the Wildcats their biggest lead of the game at 51-33 with inside 14 minutes to go.
The DiVincenzo (5-of-7 from three, 10-of-15 from the field) show continued as the lanky 6-foot-5-er leaped high with Michigan’s Charles Matthews as he tried to throw down a dunk, rejecting him for yet another highlight reel play. He added eight more points midway through the second with a dunk and two three-pointers to lift Nova back to an 18-point edge. He was the first player to score more than 30 points in a title game since 1997. It was a pretty good time for him to set a new career high.
Bridges, who likely played in his final collegiate game Monday, banked 15 of his 19 points in the second half.