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 straight 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 TV announcers Jim Nantz and Bill Raftery on the sideline.
"I really can't get my mind around it. I never dreamt of this." - Jay Wright <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LetsMarchNova?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LetsMarchNova</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NationalChampionship?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NationalChampionship</a> <a href="https://t.co/mCQhtOQReI">pic.twitter.com/mCQhtOQReI</a>—@marchmadness
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.
Played their best game
"I thought we played our best game in the championship game," coach Jay Wright said.
One key question: Could this be one of the best teams of all-time?
Maybe so, considering the way Wright's team dismantled everyone in front of it in a tournament that was dripping with upsets, underdogs and 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 3-pointers, and one week after they relied more on defence in a win over Texas Tech in the Elite Eight.
That debate's for later.
Donte's Inferno has taken over at the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NationalChampionship?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NationalChampionship</a>!!! ????????????<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LetsMarchNova?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LetsMarchNova</a> <a href="https://t.co/g2BPCOUQn0">pic.twitter.com/g2BPCOUQn0</a>—@marchmadness
DiVincenzo squashed any questions about this game with a 10-for-15 shooting night — five for seven from three —that was better than that, making him an easy winner for most outstanding player in the Final Four.
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, 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 defence and just bringing energy to the team."
The three 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.
Tough blow for Michigan
About the only drama left was whether DiVincenzo could unwrap himself from his teammates' mob hug to toss the ball underhanded toward the scoreboard after the buzzer. He succeeded there, too.
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 defence 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 one for nine 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.
If that wasn't demoralizing enough, DiVincenzo made another three, took a bounce pass from Jalen Brunson for a dunk, then paid it forward with an assist to Omari Spellman. It was part of a 23-7 run that gave the Wildcats a nine-point lead at halftime; they never looked back.
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