Nova’s DiVincenzo wins most outstanding player of Final Four

SAN ANTONIO — When Villanova was struggling with its shots in the first half, Donte DiVincenzo provided a wake-up call for the Wildcats.

When Michigan tried to make a move on Villanova in the second half, DiVincenzo put down the uprising with 11 straight points and a wink toward the sideline.

The Wildcats’ sixth-man scored a career-high 31 points and won most outstanding player of the Final Four as Villanova beat Michigan 79-62 on Monday night for its second NCAA Tournament championship in three seasons.

“Honestly, when I got into the game, all I was trying to do was play hard,” DiVincenzo said. “I just wanted to help my team offensively.”

DiVincenzo, who was just a cheerleader for Villanova during that championship run in the 2015-16 season, had the first 30-point effort in a title game since Miles Simon did it for Arizona against Kentucky in 1997.

The sophomore from Delaware broke his foot early in his freshman season and was limited to eight games and a medical redshirt. He was on the bench when Kris Jenkins hit the winner at the buzzer to give Villanova the championship against North Carolina.

“That year versus this year it was tough not being out there competing with these guys,” DiVincenzo said.

Against Michigan, DiVincenzo was the guy. He had 16 points on an assortment of drives and mid-range shots in the first half as Villanova started 1 for 8 from 3-point range.

“It was no surprise at all,” said Jalen Brunson, Villanova’s All-American and AP player of the year. “We knew (DiVincenzo) had it in him. There’s plenty of players on this team top to bottom that have that in him. Nothing we haven’t seen before.”

The Wildcats’ offense, the best in the country with shooters all over the floor, perked up late and surged to nine-point halftime lead. The advantage quickly bulged to double-digits in the second half. Michigan had whittled it down 12 with about nine minutes left when DiVincenzo hit 3 from up top. The next time down he let another one fly — why not? — and after it swished through he looked toward the sideline and gave a wink.

DiVincenzo said adjusting to coming off the bench this season was not easy.

“Early in the year it was difficult, not being a starter,” he said. “Just knowing the reason why is those guys ... it just made it so much easier for me.”

DiVincenzo finished 10-for-15 from the field, with five rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots. He had the highest scoring game for any single player against Michigan’s stingy defense this season and became the sixth player in the last 40 years with a 30-point NCAA championship game.

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