The students' perspective on Villanova Sports.

DiVincenzo, Sophomores Shine in Comeback Victory over No. 12 Virginia

Villanova's Donte DiVincenzo. center, puts back a shot by teammate Josh Hart, bottom, for the winning basket with Virginia's Marial Shayok, right and Ty Jerome , left, defending during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

-AP Photo/Chris Szagola

Donte DiVincenzo.

If you don’t know how to spell his last name yet, it’s time to break out the flashcards.

With just moments left in the game, DiVincenzo was outmaneuvered by Virginia’s freshman point guard Ty Jerome, allowing him to score the game-tying basket, with 11.5 seconds left on the clock.

There were more than a few murmurs of overtime overheard in the crowd.

Regardless of the outcome of the game at that moment, one thing was certain–college basketball is amazing, and DiVincenzo would demonstrate just why.

On the following possession, Josh Hart had missed what looked like the final shot of the game. Just as the Wells Fargo Center crowd of a record 20,907 spectators put their arms down and released an audible sigh of disappointment, the game was not over–yet.

With less than a second left on the clock, DiVincenzo rose up and tipped Hart’s missed shot into the basket, and with one tenth of a second left, the ball plopped right through the hoop.

It was his first and only basket of the game, but it couldn’t have come at a better time. DiVincenzo’s heroics granted Villanova a 61-59 victory over Virginia.

It was a moment of redemption for DiVincenzo after letting Jerome tie it up, and won it all for the Wildcats. That sigh from the crowd ended with screams the likes of which hadn’t been heard all game, and were at once surprised, confused, and elated.

“We were looking forward to this game,” said Villanova head coach Jay Wright, “We just knew that we would be tested and we knew we were going to come out of this game learning a lot. We got a little lucky at the end, Donte made an unbelievable play, obviously not drawn up.”

The Wildcats were definitely tested, but just like DiVincenzo, they rose to the occasion at the end. A comeback the likes of we haven’t seen from ‘Nova in a while had its roots in the younger players, and proved that even if the most senior members of our team have an off day, the rest of the team can take care of business.

Sophomores Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson led the team in scoring, scoring 15 points each. In the first half, Bridges seemed like the only Wildcat to get it going, while the rest of the squad struggled.

Virginia’s size, as well as their trademark phenomenal defense, made them a worthy opponent of the defending National Champions.

“I think Virginia is one of the best teams in the country,” said Wright, “We’ve got to get better in our defensive consistency.”

It was obvious in the first half that ‘Nova needed to step up defensively, after allowing Virginia to shoot 12-of-26 (46.2 percent) to start. It was even more so important, as offense was hard to come by. The Wildcats’ struggles were well documented in the opening half.

Villanova was limited to just an ugly 4-of-22 (18.2 percent) in the first half, and an even worse 1-of-10 performance from deep.

“We weren’t worried about offense,” said DiVincenzo, “We just made sure we had good stops.”

Once they got defense figured out in the second half, it seemed like their offense fell into place, as they settled in.. The Wildcats went on a 13-0 run later in the second half that got them the lead with about five minutes left in the game. From that moment onward neither team led by more than just a few points. The back-and-forth game culminated in a photo finish.

“When you have good players,” said Wright, “Plays look good.”

Villanova’s upperclassmen showed up in the second half, as Hart scored all 12 of his points in the final minutes of the game. Fellow senior captains Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds also had relatively subpar games, with eight and two points, respectively.

With the win, the Wildcats finish the non-conference portion of their schedule with an unblemished 13-0 record. Their next test comes this Wednesday, as they resume conference play on the road against Providence. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.

 

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About The Author

Eugene Rapay '16 created "The Bench Mob" in November 2013. He joined the Villanova Times in 2012 as a writer. A Westchester, NY native, who will bring top quality coverage of all things Villanova sports.

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