By:Lester Johnson:|4.0 Sports Media
The Michael Jordan of Delaware (Donte DiVincenzo), as his teammates call him, has come a long way from a redshirt freshman season that was frustrating at times, but probably helped set the stage for him toward Villanova’s national championship.
Donte DiVincenzo was the star of the NCAA Tournament title game Monday night, scoring a career-high 31 points against Michigan in a 79-62 victory that gave the Wildcats two titles in three seasons before a crowd of 67,831 at the Alamodome.
The Wolverines lost by 17 points to Villanova in the national championship game Monday night, and never really threatened after the Wildcats were able to DiVincenzo their way out of a 21-14 deficit. Michigan had it going early with Moe Wagner but the Wildcats made early adjustments to the athletic forward in the second half.
Wagner scored 9 of Michigan’s first 11 points on Monday, as the Wolverines found easy buckets in the early minutes of the contest. On the other end, Michigan’s length and defensive pressure clogged the passing lanes where the Wildcats thrives to generate open shots. Everything was contested. Villanova missed eight of their first nine 3-pointers.
DiVincenzo scored 18 of the Wildcats’s first 32 points. While his teammates hit just five of their first 17 shots, he rallied VU to a halftime lead, 37-28.
“Donte’s willingness to come off the bench this year and be the sixth man really separated us from other teams. He was the sixth starter,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “He had a clear head and he did whatever we needed all year. Tonight we needed 31. I didn’t think we’d need him to do that but he has done it, so we’ll take it.”
Everything seemed to turn around for the Wolverines in January, when the players who would eventually take over in March started to assert themselves. Before the season began, the Wolverines still didn’t know whether they had a point guard, or if senior Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman could lead the team now that he was in the limelight.
In the second half, when Michigan tried to make their runs DiVincenzo put down the uprising with 11 straight points and with a thunderous dunk to let the Wolverines that the Wildcats wasn’t going anyway.
DiVincenzo became the first non-starter to win most outstanding player of the Final Four since Luke Hancock in 2013 Louisville, and the first player with a 30-point NCAA championship game since Miles Simon of Arizona in 1997 against Kentucky.
“Honestly, when I got into the game, all I was trying to do was play hard,” DiVincenzo said. “I just wanted to help my team offensively.”
The Wolverines was 9-5 this season when trailing at halftime, including Saturday’s comeback victory against Loyola-Chicago, which propelled the Blue to the national championship game for the first time since 2013, when they lost to Louisville in the final.
The Wildcats outrebounded the Wolverines, 38-27, and held Michigan to only three 3-pointers.
Villanova Mikal Bridges, quiet in the first half, hits a trey and then quick layup. The lead never made it to 20 points, but it never went to single digits either. It was 53-38 with 12 minutes to go in the game.
At the end of the day the Wolverines couldn’t compete with the Wildcats athleticism, length, quickness on the perimeter, and determination monday night.