Donte DiVincenzo had 31 points for the Wildcats, the most scored against the Wolverines this season. Villanova won all six of its NCAA tournament games by double figures.
SAN ANTONIO — They chanted his name from the cheap seats: “Di-Vin-cen-zo, Di-Vin-cen-zo.” By the time Donte DiVincenzo was done doing his damage, Villanova had another title and college basketball had its newest star.
The redhead kid with the nickname Big Ragu came off the bench to score 31 points Monday and lift ’Nova to another blowout tournament victory — this time 79-62 over Michigan for its second title in three seasons.
The sophomore guard had 12 points and an assist during a first-half run to help the Wildcats (36-4) pull ahead, then scored nine in a row for Villanova midway through the second to put the game away. He capped it with a three-pointer from a step behind the arc that he celebrated with a knowing wink over to television announcers Jim Nantz and Bill Raftery on the sideline.
Villanova won all six games by double digits over this tournament run, joining Michigan State (2000), Duke (2001) and North Carolina (2009) in that rare air.
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“I thought we played our best game in the championship game,” coach Jay Wright said.
The last team to win its two Final Four games by 16 or more: UCLA in 1968. During the dynasty.
One key question: Does Wright’s team belong on the list of the best of all-time?
Maybe so, considering the way Villanova dismantled everyone in front of it in a tournament that was dripping with upsets, underdogs and at least the appearance of parity.
Maybe so, considering the Wildcats won in seemingly every way imaginable. This victory came two nights after they set a Final Four record with 18 three-pointers, and one week after they relied more on defense in a victory over Texas Tech in the Elite Eight.
That debate’s for later.
DiVincenzo squashed any questions about this game with a 10-for-15 shooting night — 5 for 7 from three-point range —that was really better than that, making him an easy winner for most outstanding player in the Final Four.
With Michigan refusing to go away early in the second half, he opened his game-sealing run with an around-the-back dribble to get to the hoop and get fouled. On the other end, he delivered a two-handed rejection of Michigan’s Charles Matthews — his second block of the game — when Matthews tried to bring it into the paint.
“Blocked shots, definitely,” DiVincenzo said when asked if he enjoys threes or rejections more. “I pride myself on defense and just bringing energy to the team.”
The three-pointer that sealed it came from a big step behind the arc and gave Villanova a 62-44 lead with a bit less than eight minutes left.
“Honestly, I didn’t look at the score at all,” DiVincenzo said. “I didn’t know how many points I had, I didn’t know any of that. I was just trying to make the right play. And Omari (Spellman) was setting unbelievable screens for me getting me open. And I was just feeling it.”
“If someone’s hot, feed ’em,” said Jalen Brunson, the national Player of the Year, who finished with nine points and was perfectly fine with playing a supporting role on this night.
“Sometimes I think about whether I’m a good defender, because in practice, he makes me look bad,” said junior Mikal Bridges, who likely made this his final audition for the NBA with a 19-point night on 7-for-12 shooting.
What a couple months it’s been for Philly. First the Eagles. Now this. The Super Bowl, though, was a classic. This one was only beautiful to one team.
Michigan (33-8) came out playing tough-nosed defense it relied on over a 14-game winning streak that got the Wolverines to their second final in six years.
Moe Wagner scored 11 early points to continue his great play in the Final Four. Villanova started 1 for 9 from three-point range. And yet, after DiVincenzo banged down a three from a step behind the arc for Villanova’s second of the night, coach John Beilein looked at the scoreboard and saw his team behind, 23-21.
“The way DiVincenzo shot the ball, it was just incredible for us to try to win that game with the roll he went on,” Beilein said.