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NCAA Tournament in Pittsburgh: A closer look at Villanova’s 81-58 win over Alabama

March 31, 2018 GMT

VILLANOVA 81, ALABAMA 58

It was over when: Villanova came out of halftime firing. Up five points at the break, the top-seeded Wildcats buried Alabama in a barrage of 3-pointers and dunks. They started the second half with an 18-1 run and coasted to the victory.

Play of the game: Alabama cut Villanova’s lead to two in the final minute of the first half, but Donte DiVincenzo made sure the Wildcats got into the half with a bigger lead. His off-the-dribble 3-pointer, his fifth make of the first half, gave Villanova a 32-27 advantage at the break.

Player of the game: The PPG Paints Arena turned into Donte’s Inferno. With star Jalen Brunson forced to the bench for most of the first half with two fouls, DiVincenzo caught fire off the bench. He scored 18 points before the break, including 14 after Brunson picked up his second foul midway through the first half. The redshirt sophomore finished with 18 points, shooting 5-of-11 from 3-point range. He added some defense, too, picking the pocket of Alabama star Collin Sexton and going in for the layup.

Turning point: DiVincenzo provided the offense in the first half, and his half-ending 3 seemed to wake up the rest of the Villanova offense. During Villanova’s 18-1 run to open the second half, the Wildcats got back-to-back fast-break dunks by Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges, the latter an alley-oop from Booth, and a trifecta of 3-pointers by Bridges. The Wildcats also held Alabama without a field goal for five minutes.

Key stat: Villanova leads the NCAA in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive efficiency, averaging 127.6 points per 100 possessions before Saturday. A major factor is the Wildcats’ 3-point shooting; they make 11.5 3s per game, third in the country, and shoot 40.1 percent, good for 14th. And after making just 7 of 20 shots from behind the arc in the first half –DiVincenzo shot 5-of-9, the rest of the team 2-of-11 – Villanova sank its first six attempts of the second half. The Wildcats finished 17-of-41 from 3-point range, taking nearly two-thirds of their shots from behind the arc.

Unsung hero: In the City of Bridges, it seems only fair that Villanova’s Bridges shined. The projected NBA lottery pick doesn’t exactly fly under the radar, but he played the biggest role in a close game turning into a rout. He scored 22 of his game-high 23 points after the half, when he made five 3-pointers and converted the alley-oop from Booth. He scored 19 of the Wildcats’ first 21 points in the second half, including 14 straight at one point.

Quote of the game: “I have no idea. I’m assuming because I’m an Italian with red hair.” — DiVincenzo, on the genesis of his “Big Ragu” nickname