Villanova roars to second NCAA title in three years

Guard Donte DiVincenzo poured in a career-high 31 points off the bench in front of a roaring crowd at the Alamodome Monday night, lifting the Villanova Wildcats to a 79-62 victory over Michigan for the NCAA men’s basketball championship.

Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo set a record for most points in an NCAA title game by a non-starter. He scored 31.

It was Villanova’s second title in three years.

DiVincenzo, a 6-5 sophomore from Wilmington, Delaware, scored 18 in the first half when Villanova rallied from a seven-point deficit to take a nine-point halftime lead.

He continued to put on a show in the second half, finishing with a 10-of-15 shooting performance. DiVincenzo knocked down 5 of 7 shots from three-point range.

Guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led the Wolverines with 23.

Records

Villanova: 36-4

Michigan: 33-8

Attendance

67,831

Quotable

Asked what turned the game around after Michigan seized an early seven-point lead, Villanova coach Jay Wright momentarily dodged the question, saying, “We want to congratulate the Michigan Wolverines (and coach) John Beilein, a great program (with) great fans, and we’re proud to have played them in this game.

“To answer your question, Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges are our leaders. When we got down, those three kept us together.”


Villanova coach Jay Wright tells reporters it is difficult to comprehend that his teams have won two championships in the past three seasons.

Catching fire again

Just as Michigan started to make a push midway through the second half, DiVincenzo caught fire once again.

The Wolverines pulled within 13 points, but DiVincenzo answered with a free throw and two threes over the next two minutes to push the Wildcats back out front, 62-46, with eight minutes remaining.

The outburst boosted DiVincenzo’s point total to 27 points.

A dust-up after halftime

An offensive foul called on Michigan center Moritz Wagner with 15:24 remaining sparked emotions among players on both squads, resulting in technical fouls on Wagner and Villanova center Omari Spellman.

After the whistle, Wagner and Spellman faced off, as fans jeered the play.

After a review, officials elected to call double technicals.

The play underscored Villanova’s ploy to blanket Wagner with a physical defense, in an apparent attempt to take Michigans’s leading scorer out of his rhythm.


Holding court with reporters after the game, Jay Wright said he always told Donte DiVincenzo that he had to play defense to play for the Villanova Wildcats.

First-half summary

Trailing by seven, the Wildcats rallied behind DiVincenzo to take a 37-28 lead at intermission.

DiVincenzo scored 12 points in Villanova’s 23-7 run in the final 11 minutes.

Early in the game, Wagner, a 6-11, multi-skilled center, led the Wolverines to a 21-14 advantage.

Showing off a variety of skills, either down low or outside on the perimeter, Wagner scored 11 points in nine minutes.

But after Wagner’s bucket in the paint made it a seven-point game and brought Michigan fans out of their seats, DiVincenzo went to work for Villanova.

Included in his outburst was a long three from the left wing to boost the Wildcats into a 23-21 lead.

He added another three and a dunk to finish the half with 18 points on 7 of 10 shooting.

Michigan forward Moritz ‘Moe’ Wagner said referees didn’t explain a double technical foul called on him and Villanova forward Omari Spellman. ‘But I wasn’t worrying about it. I just moved on to the next play. Stuff happens.’

On April 2, before a crowd of 67,831 at the Alamodome, Villanova celebrated a 79-62 victory over Michigan for the NCAA title.

It’s down to two: Villanova, Michigan to duel for a title

The Villanova Wildcats and Michigan Wolverines on Sunday kicked into high gear their preparation for Monday’s NCAA basketball championship game at the Alamodome.

Coaches and players were also meeting with the media.

Villanova coach Jay Wright (pictured, above) talks to reporters Sunday on the eve of the national title game against Michigan.

Wright won his first NCAA championship in Houston two years ago when Villanova topped North Carolina, 77-74.

He’ll get a shot to seize the second crown of his career on Monday night at the Alamodome in downtown San Antonio.

“We are thrilled to be here, obviously,” Wright said. “Every time you come up here, you just kind of pinch yourself, like, we’re still here. This is really cool.”

Villanova forward Eric Paschall emerged as one of the stories of the Final Four Saturday when he hit 10 of 11 shots and scored a team-high 24 in a 95-79 victory over Kansas.

With his performance, Paschall put himself in position to play in his first title game for the Wildcats.

He sat out under transfer rules in 2015-16 when Villanova beat Oklahoma and then North Carolina in Houston.

Michigan coach John Beilein addresses the media at the NCAA Final Four.

Michigan coach John Beilein said Villanova put on an “offensive clinic” against Kansas.

“It was an offensive clinic against a very good defensive team,” Beilein said. “We’re just pleased to be in this forum right now, where we’re playing the last day.”

Michigan advanced to the title game with a 69-57 victory over Loyola-Chicago.

Michigan guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman on Sunday afternoon discussed the impact that coach John Beilein has had on his career.

Abdur-Rahkman came to Michigan as a two-star recruit and worked his way into a starter’s role.

He told reporters that he always appreciated that Beilein treated players who weren’t playing the same way he treated athletes in the rotation.

Abdur-Rahkman will be a key figure in the championship game with his ability to guard the three-point line.

It’s confession time.

On Saturday afternoon, I got myself into a bit of a rush on my way to the Final Four.

Preparing to leave my house, I left my phone charger in the living room.

Once I arrived in the dome press room, I unpacked my gear and discovered the mental error.

Fortunately, my wife was home and, as usual, was more than willing to help me out.

She drove downtown and delivered the phone charger, handing off to me in front of the Express-News building.

I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of having to walk from the dome to the newspaper, and back, but I’m glad I did.

It was a chance to see and hear the sights and sounds of visitors on their way to the game.

In a sense, a mental error allowed me to feel the pulse of the tournament.

It was special.

A ‘road game’ for Michigan? Beilein doesn’t mind

Michigan coach John Beilein addresses the media at the NCAA Final Four.

Most of the anticipated 69,000 fans in attendance for the NCAA semifinals Saturday at the Alamodome are expected to be cheering for the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers against the Michigan Wolverines.

Michigan coach John Beilein doesn’t mind.

He said it hasn’t been necessary to talk to his players about it, either.

“I think they know that this is a great story, one that all of us should really admire what Loyola has been able to do,” Beilein said. “But you’ve seen us play at Michigan State and you’ve seen us play at Penn State and Mayland.

“People weren’t cheering for us there.”

Beilein said he expects Michigan fans to turn out “strong” for their team. He downplayed the idea that most of the crowd should be cheering for Loyola, one of the ‘Cinderella’ stories of the tournament.

“I don’t think that will bother us,” Beilein said. “I think that this is going to be a great basketball game with two teams that really have moments where they play great basketball.”

Final Four glance: Loyola, Michigan, Villanova, Kansas

Welcome to the NCAA Final Four in San Antonio, from The JB Replay.

The NCAA Final Four is set to tip off Saturday at the Alamodome, with Loyola-Chicago playing Michigan at 5:09 p.m. Villanova takes on Kansas in the second of two national semifinals at 7:49. Here’s a quick glance at each team:

Loyola-Chicago Ramblers

Coach: Porter Moser
Conference: Missouri Valley
Record: 32-5
Streak: Won 14 in a row and 21 of 22

NCAA road to San Antonio: Beat Miami, 64-62; beat Tennessee, 63-62; beat Nevada, 69-68; beat Kansas State, 78-62.

Reasons to believe: With a 98-year-old nun known as Sister Jean cheering them on, the Ramblers called on different players to hit game-deciding shots in the last 10 seconds of their first three tournament games. Loyola then won going away against Kansas State.

Michigan Wolverines

Coach: John Beilein
Conference: Big Ten
Record: 32-7
Streak: Won 13 in a row and 15 of 16

NCAA road to San Antonio: Beat Montana, 61-47; beat Houston, 64-63; beat Texas A&M, 99-72; beat Florida State, 58-54.

Reasons to believe: Wolverines play tough defense, yielding only 63 points per game. Most of their games are of the grind-it-out style, but they can play fast, as evidenced by a 99-point explosion against Texas A&M in the Sweet 16.

Villanova Wildcats

Coach: Jay Wright
Conference: Big East
Record: 34-4
Streak: Won 9 in a row and 11 of 12

NCAA road to San Antonio: Beat Radford, 87-61; beat Alabama, 81-58; beat West Virginia, 90-78; beat Texas Tech, 71-59.

Reasons to believe: The Wildcats always seem to have the answers in big moments, most notably point guard Jalon Brunson. Both Brunson and Phil Booth played major roles in ‘Nova’s 2016 national championship.

Kansas Jayhawks

Coach: Bill Self
Conference: Big 12
Record: 31-7
Streak: Won 7 in a row and 12 of 13

NCAA road to San Antonio: Beat Penn, 76-60; beat Seton Hall, 83-79; beat Clemson, 80-76; beat Duke, 85-81, overtime.

Reasons to believe: Jayhawks point guard Devonte’ Graham is playing with supreme confidence. Guards Malik Newman, Lagerald Vick and Svi Mykhailiuk all hit big shots against Duke. Bill Self has the mojo. He won here in 2008.

Michigan defeats Florida State, earns trip to the Final Four

The Michigan Wolverines are returning to the NCAA Final Four.

Michigan will make the trip to San Antonio next week after defeating the Florida State Seminoles 58-54 on Saturday for the West Regional championship.

It is the second Final Four for Michigan and veteran coach John Beilein in the past six seasons.

The Wolverines reached the NCAA finals in 2013 before losing to the Louisville Cardinals.

After Saturday’s Round of Eight, two of the hottest teams in the nation are paired in the NCAA semifinals.

Loyola-Chicago will bring a 14-game winning streak to the Alamodome. Michigan has won 13 straight.

On Sunday, the final two teams will be decided.

Villanova and Texas Tech will play for one spot, while Kansas and Duke will meet for the other.

The semifinals are set for March 31. After a day off, the NCAA title game will be held on April 2.

Texas Tech beats Florida, advances to Round of 16

Texas Tech advanced to the Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 13 years Saturday night following a 69-66 victory over Florida in an East Regional second-round game at Dallas.

It’s a stunning achievement for the Red Raiders, who were picked in the preseason to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big 12 Conference.

Second-year Texas Tech coach Chris Beard told a television reporter for TBS that he has always been driven to prove people wrong.

“We don’t have the McDonald’s All-Americans,” Beard said. “But we’ve got guys who have gotten better, and we’ve got guys who believe in themselves.”

As a result, third-seeded Tech (26-9) will move on to Boston next week to face either Purdue or Butler.

The Red Raiders last played in the Sweet 16 in 2005 when they defeated UCLA and Gonzaga in Tucson before losing to West Virginia, 65-60, in the regional semifinals at Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Bob Knight was in his fourth season as Tech’s coach at the time.

Houston’s heart-break

Jordan Poole hit a long three-pointer to beat the buzzer as the third-seeded Michigan Wolverines ousted No. 6 Houston 64-63 in a Round of 32 West Region thriller at Wichita, Kansas.

The Cougars had a chance to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 34 years but couldn’t stop the Wolverines from making the winning play with a possession that started with 3.6 seconds remaining.

Michigan inbounded the ball from its own baseline. The pass went to Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who passed to Poole on the right wing.

Poole elevated with pressure from a Houston defender and, with legs splayed, hoisted the shot that lifted Michigan into the Sweet 16 for the second straight year.

Loyola-Chicago wins again

Clayton Custer’s jumper with 3.6 seconds left boosted the 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago Ramblers into the Round of 16 with a 63-62 victory over No. 3 Tennessee in a South Region game at Dallas.

The Volunteers had a chance to win at the buzzer, but Jordan Bone misfired on a contested three from top of the circle.

With the victory, Loyola-Chicago emerged as the only double-digit seed to win a second-round game on Saturday, with three more — UMBC, Butler and Syracuse — playing Sunday.

Round of 32

Saturday’s scores / Sunday’s schedule

South

(16) UMBC vs. (9) Kansas State, Sunday, 6:45 p.m., TruTV
(5) Kentucky beat (13) Buffalo, 95-75

(11) Loyola-Chicago beat (3) Tennessee, 63-62
(2) Cincinnati vs. (7) Nevada, Sunday, 5:10 p.m., TNT

West

(1) Xavier vs. (9) Florida State, Sunday, 7:45 p.m., TNT
(4) Gonzaga beat (5) Ohio State, 90-84

(3) Michigan beat (6) Houston, 64-63
(7) Texas A&M vs. (2) North Carolina, Sunday, 4:15 p.m., CBS

East

(1) Villanova beat (9) Alabama, 81-58
(5) West Virginia vs. (13) Marshall, Sunday, 8:40 p.m., TBS

(3) Texas Tech beat (6) Florida, 69-66
(10) Butler vs. (2) Purdue, Sunday, 11:10 a.m., CBS

Midwest

(1) Kansas beat (8) Seton Hall, 83-79
(4) Auburn vs. (5) Clemson, Sunday, 6:10 p.m., CBS

(11) Syracuse vs. (3) Michigan State, Sunday, 1:40 p.m., CBS
(2) Duke beat (7) Rhode Island, 87-62