Michigan can’t end Big Ten drought as Villanova cruises to national title
SAN ANTONIO Villanova isnt considered a blue blood in the traditional sense, but that list might now have to expand soon for the modern day to include Jay Wrights program.
The Wildcats cut down the nets for the second time in three years Monday, which no team had done in that short of a window since Floridas back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007.
Winning it all eluded the Big Ten for another year, 19 straight now, after Villanovas 79-62 victory against third-seeded Michigan on Monday at the Alamodome.
The Wildcats (36-7) proved why they were arguably the best team in the country all season, becoming the first since North Carolina in 2009 to win all five NCAA tournament games by double digits.
Wright didnt have to sweat out the final seconds of any March Madness game this year, not like he did watching Kris Jenkins sink the buzzer-beat to beat North Carolina for his last title in 2016.
The hero on Monday was sophomore Donte DiVicenzo, who scored 18 of his career-high 30 points in the first half. Wildcats fans chanting his name in San Antonio and those cheering back home will surely never forget his performance much like Jenkins shot became legendary.
The Wolverines (33-8), who also finished national runner-up in 2013, couldnt end the Big Tens title drought that goes back to Michigan States crown in 2000.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur Rahkman led Michigan with 23 points. Moe Wagner was held to five of his 16 points in the second half.
The game didnt start as one-sided as ended. The Cats had to overcome a poor shooting first half from three-point range, which was the complete opposite from their record-setting performance in Saturdays 95-79 win against Kansas with 13 of their 18 threes by halftime.
Villanova used a 23-7 run to take a 37-28 halftime advantage. National player of the year Jalen Brunson (nine points 4-for-13 shooting) struggled against the size and physical play of the Wolverines, but DiVincenzo outscored Michigans entire team at one point in the first half.
Wagner, who had 24 points and 15 rebounds in Saturdays win against Loyola-Chicago, drove past his defender for a layup and his 11th point for a 21-14 lead. But the 6-foot-11 junior was held scoreless in the last 11 minutes going into intermission.
Michigan dominated the offensive glass the previous night, but it only had three second-chance points in the first half. Meanwhile, the Wildcats overcame 4-for-13 shooting from long distance by crashing the boards with a 20-14 edge after 20 minutes of play.
Comparisons to Villanovas national title team two years ago were legitimate with Wright having a team that could overcome shooting spells with stingy defense. But these Cats were one of the best offensive teams in program history, setting an NCAA single-season record with 454 threes entering Monday.
Eric Paschall was the hot hand in the win vs. Kansas with 24 points, but he didnt score Monday until five straight points to open the second half against Michigan. His reverse layup gave Villanova a 44-30 lead less than two minutes into the period.
Wagner, known for his high-energy on the court, tried to get himself going with a drive and dunk at 15:24, but he was called for pushing off on Brunson. As he walked away from the play, he made contact with Omari Spellman. Both players received technicals and their third fouls for jawing, but the momentum was still heavily in Novas favor.
After a slow start, Mikal Bridges drilled a three-pointer from the corner to extend the Wildcats lead to 51-33. Bridges finished with 19 points.
Michigan overcame a 10-point second-half deficit in Saturdays win against Loyola-Chicago, but even the best defensive team during John Beileins tenure couldnt slow down the Big East champions.