Jalen Brunson (1)
Jalen Brunson (1)
Much was made of Villanova’s balanced, prolific scoring as the Wildcats mowed down one opponent after another in one of the most dominant runs through an NCAA Tournament in years.
Lurking in the shadows was a highly underrated defense, one that turned around Monday night’s national championship game with Michigan.
Allowing the Wolverines to make just 43.6 percent of their field-goal attempts and just 3 of 23 tries from 3-point range, the top-seeded Wildcats notched their second title in three years with a 79-62 verdict at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
In becoming the first team since North Carolina nine years ago to win every tournament game by double figures, Villanova (36-4) got a game-high 31 points from sixth man Donte DiVincenzo and 19 from Mikal Bridges.
Yet even DiVincenzo, the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player who steamrolled Michigan with a run of 10 straight points late in the first half and another burst of nine straight points in the second half, pointed to his defense as the most satisfying factor.
“The blocked shots, definitely,” he said when asked if scoring 31 points or rejecting a pair of shots pleased him more. “I pride myself on defense and bringing energy to this team.”
The Wildcats’ versatility and ability to play positionless basketball on offense also translates to the defensive end. Almost everyone in the Villanova rotation can guard multiple positions, allowing the team to switch screens if needed, and most of the player are quick enough to deny opponents their favorite spots.
Michigan (33-8) was able to execute its offense well enough for the first 10 minutes, leading on Moritz Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman to grab a 21-16 lead just over 12 minutes into the game. However, when Villanova started cutting off driving lanes and forcing the Wolverines to settle for jumpers, the game changed.
“They obviously played the drive better, and I turned it over a couple of times,” Wagner said. “You have to give them credit. They’re a really good team defensively and when they play like that, they’re tough to beat.”
DiVincenzo’s outburst made beating Villanova just about impossible. The Big East Conference’s Sixth Man of the Year scored 10 of his 18 first-half points in a span of just 2:55, keying a 23-7 spurt that turned a seven-point deficit into a 37-28 halftime lead.
Canning 3-pointers, scoring off the dribble and even drilling one long jumper over two defenders, DiVincenzo put Michigan in a hole it wasn’t about to escape.
“We needed to play better,” Wolverines coach John Beilein said, “but even if we had played at our best, it would have been very difficult to win with what DiVincenzo (was doing).”
Wagner scored to start the second half, but the Wildcats weren’t about to let suspense enter the equation. Continuing to string stops together while regaining rhythm offensively, they hit Michigan with a 14-3 run that Bridges capped with a 3-pointer for a 51-33 lead with 14:36 left.
The Wolverines kept working but couldn’t get closer than 12 for the game’s remainder. DiVincenzo peeled off nine straight points in a 2:39 stretch, finishing it with a 3-pointer with 7:57 on the clock to make it 62-44.
Fittingly, it was DiVincenzo who dribbled out the final 10 seconds, flinging the ball toward the ceiling of the cavernous football stadium as his teammates mobbed him.
“We grind every single day in practice,” he said. “To experience this is a dream come true.”
Abdur-Rahkman paced Michigan with 23 points and Wagner contributed 16, but their best efforts just weren’t enough to hold off Villanova.
“I can’t put this into words,” Brunson said. “This is spectacular.”
NOTES: Villanova became the first team since North Carolina in 2015 to lead the country in scoring and win the national title. … The 2009 Tar Heels were the last team to win every tourney game by double digits. … DiVincenzo was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Bridges, Jalen Brunson and Eric Paschall along with Michigan’s Wagner. … The Wildcats’ win follows the Eagles’ Super Bowl triumph, making Philadelphia the first city ever to win the Super Bowl championship and the NCAA championship in the same year, according to TBS.
SAN ANTONIO – Villanova is one win away from its second national championship in three seasons, but its final hurdle appears to be a daunting one. Michigan owns the longest winning streak in the nation at 14 games and will attempt to upset the Wildcats when the teams square off Monday in San Antonio in the NCAA Tournament title game.Villanova was a good 3-point shooting team in 2015-16 when it won the national championship (highlighted, of course, by Kris Jenkins’ championship-clinching 3-pointer at the buzzer), but the Big East champions have taken it to a new level this season.
The Wildcats set a Final Four record with 18 3-pointers in Saturday’s semifinal victory over Kansas and have made at least 13 3-pointers in four of their five wins in this event. “It’s our best offensive team. We’ve had some good ones. This is definitely our best,” said Villanova coach Jay Wright, whose squad hopes to hand Michigan its first loss since Feb. 6. The Wolverines defeated upstart Loyola Chicago on Saturday, rallying from a 10-point second-half deficit to move to the brink of their first title since 1989.
TV: 9:20 p.m. ET, TBS
ABOUT MICHIGAN (33-7): The Wolverines won their final six regular-season games, followed by a 3-for-3 run in the Big Ten Tournament and a smooth surge through the first five games of the Big Dance, although they have yet to defeat a team seeded higher than No. 6 in this event. They have given up more than 63 points only once in this tournament and harassed Loyola into 1-of-10 3-point shooting and 17 turnovers, while Moritz Wagner (24 points, 15 rebounds) handled the bulk of the burden offensively. Charles Matthews added 17 points, but fellow starting guards Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Zavier Simpson combined for seven points on 2-of-17 shooting and must be better against the Wildcats’ talented backcourt.
ABOUT VILLANOVA (35-4): With Wooden Award finalist Jalen Brunson leading the way, the Wildcats are the top scoring team in the nation (86.8 points), which provides a nice contrast with the Wolverines, who are eighth nationally in points allowed (62.9). Brunson had 18 points against Kansas, second on the team to Eric Paschall, who recorded 24 points on 10-of-11 shooting (4-of-5 3-pointers), while Omari Spellman chipped in 15 points and 13 rebounds and Donte DiVincenzo had 15 points off the bench. Mikal Bridges, potentially the top NBA prospect in this year’s Final Four, had 10 points against the Jayhawks and is capable of erupting from 3-point range, as the junior has drained multiple 3s in 13 of the last 14 games.
1. Aside from the Elite Eight, when he shot 0-of-7 from the arc against Florida State, Wagner is 9-of-15 from 3-point range in the NCAA Tournament.
2. Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, Villanova is the fifth team to win its first five games by double digits. The only team in that group to lose the championship game was North Carolina (against Villanova) two years ago.
3. Villanova defeated Michigan en route to winning the 1985 national championship and won the last matchup in 2014, but this will be only the fourth meeting.
SAN ANTONIO – Eric Paschall sat out as a sophomore transfer on the 2016 Villanova team that won the school’s first national title in 31 years.
Two years later, he and the Wildcats are back, hunting another NCAA championship with a squad of sharpshooters that set a Final Four record Saturday night against helpless Kansas.
Paschall canned four of Villanova’s 18 3-pointers and scored a game-high 24 points, leading six players in double figures as the Wildcats routed the Jayhawks 95-79 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Villanova (35-4) will take on Michigan, a 69-57 winner over Loyola-Chicago in the first semifinal Saturday, in the championship game Monday night. The Wildcats will be solid favorites after hitting 55.4 percent from the field and leading by double figures for the final 35:58 against a fellow top seed.
Part of the reason is Paschall, a 6-foot-9, 255-pound redshirt junior who is one of six players on the team to average in double figures. All six can play position-less basketball, able to score from anywhere on the floor and move the ball around until someone gets a clean look.
“It just feels good,” Paschall said. “My teammates trusted me, filled me with that confidence.”
Overconfidence would have been Villanova’s only problem on this night, given how well it shot the ball from the arc. It canned six 3-pointers in the game’s first 6:57, establishing a 22-4 lead when Collin Gillespie came off the bench to sink a three. One of the two 2-pointers in that span was a highlight-reel dunk by Paschall of a missed three from Omari Spellman.
By halftime, when the Wildcats led 47-32, they had tied the single-game record for a Final Four with 13 threes. A desperation heave from Paschall to beat the shot clock 61 seconds into the second half found the net to give Villanova the record and a 50-34 lead.
Six different Wildcats converted multiple 3-pointers, and they also shredded Kansas’ defense when they overcommitted on the perimeter. They finished the game at 55.4 percent from the field, going 18-of-25 on 2-point attempts.
“Kansas did a good job of getting out on our shooters,” claimed Villanova coach Jay Wright, “and (Paschall) did a good job making plays one-on-one.”
Spellman added 15 points and 13 rebounds, while Jalen Brunson contributed 18 points and six assists. Donte DiVincenzo scored 15 points off the bench. Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges each tallied 10.
Devonte’ Graham bagged 23 points to lead the Jayhawks (31-8). Malik Newman, who scored all 13 overtime points in a Midwest Region championship win over Duke that got Kansas to San Antonio, added 21. Sviatoslav Mykhailuk scored 10 points.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We didn’t have the perfect roster to win all those games, win the league … it seemed to catch up to us a little today but I’m not going to think of it as sour.”
Newman’s jumper with 9:20 left pulled the Jayhawks within 71-57, but the Wildcats methodically restored the lead to 20. DiVincenzo’s 3-pointer with 3:57 remaining made it an 83-63 game, and all that was left to do from there was settle the final margin.
Scoring could be a bit tougher for Villanova against Michigan, which has held three of its NCAA Tournament opponents under 60 points with discipline, length and intelligent challenges on jump-shooters.
“They’re really long defensively, really disciplined,” Wright said of the Wolverines. “They present matchup nightmares. But when you get to this point, you’re going to play a great team.”
–Field Level Media
SAN ANTONIO – The NCAA Tournament has been as wild as ever, but there is some stability in San Antonio, as No. 1 seeds Villanova and Kansas square off Saturday in an intriguing Final Four matchup. The teams each have one of the five Wooden Award finalists at point guard, with Villanova’s Jalen Brunson and Kansas’ Devonte’ Graham leading their respective teams into this star-studded clash.Brunson has guided the Wildcats into the Final Four for the second time in three seasons despite scoring 16 points or fewer in three of the team’s first four games in this event and not racking up more than four assists in any NCAA Tournament contest. “The outside thinks about this one-on-one matchup between me and Devonte’,” Brunson told reporters. “I just really focus on Villanova versus Kansas.” Graham, a senior whose team had lost in the Elite Eight each of the previous two years, has yet to shoot above 40 percent in any of the four tournament games, although fortunately Malik Newman has stepped up to shoulder the scoring load. Newman scored all 13 of the Jayhawks’ points in overtime against Duke in the Elite Eight, finishing with a career-high 32 to help Kansas reach the Final Four for the second time since winning the 2008 title.
TV: 8:49 p.m. ET, TBS
ABOUT VILLANOVA (34-4): The Wildcats have won their four tournament games by 26, 23, 12 and 12 points, but the Elite Eight win over Texas Tech followed a different formula than the first three games. Villanova shot only 33.3 percent against the Red Raiders and finished with 71 points – well below the team’s country-leading average of 86.6 points – and they also shot just 4-of-24 from behind the 3-point line – highly uncharacteristic for a team that shoots 40 percent from long range overall. Mikal Bridges missed all five of his 3-point attempts, ending his streak of 11 straight games with at least three 3s, including 10 contests in which he made at least 40 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.
ABOUT KANSAS (31-7): The Jayhawks have five double-digit scorers on the season – including Graham, who is part of a four-guard attack, and big man Udoka Azubuike, who is rounding into form after missing the Big 12 Tournament with a knee injury. Newman has made 13 3-pointers in the last three games, averaging nearly 26 points per game in that stretch, and Lagerald Vick has been consistent with either 13 or 14 points in all four games of the tournament. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk notched 11 points, 10 rebounds and five assists against Duke, but the Jayhawks’ fate likely will come down to Graham, who had a game-high 17 points two years ago when Kansas was upended by Villanova in the Elite Eight.
1. Villanova is one win away from tying the school record of 35 set by the 2016 national championship team.
2. Azubuike is shooting 77.2 percent from the field this season – by far the best in the nation.
3. The winner of this game will return to the court for Monday’s championship game against either Michigan or Loyola-Chicago.
Third-seeded Michigan hopes its historic season culminates in a title game appearance as it faces No. 11 seed Loyola Chicago in the national semifinal on Saturday in San Antonio. The Wolverines, who have won 13 consecutive games – including 10 straight away from home – held off ninth-seeded Florida State 58-54 in the Elite 8 to set a new program record for wins in a season with 32 and hope to reach the national championship game for the second time since 2013.
SAN ANTONIO – (Staff Report from Official News Release) – Villanova University guard Jalen Brunson was named winner of the Oscar Robertson Trophy as the 2018 National Player of the Year in voting by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.
The trophy’s namesake, “The Big O,” was on hand at the Alamodome, site of this weekend’s Final Four, to announce Brunson as the winner. The formal presentation of the award will take place at the College Basketball Awards dinner April 9 at the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis. In addition to the Oscar Robertson Trophy, other awards to be presented at the sold-out event are the Henry Iba Award for National Coach of the Year to Virginia’s Tony Bennett, and the Wayman Tisdale Award for the National Freshman Player of the Year to Oklahoma’s Trae Young. Former Missouri and Hall of Fame coach Norm Stewart and retired referee Ed Hightower each will receive lifetime achievement awards.
“Jalen Brunson is the most essential force on a terrific Villanova team, both a team player and dynamic individual talent,” USBWA president Vahé Gregorian of The Kansas City Star said. “The USBWA is delighted to recognize him as our player of the year.”
This is the first time a Villanova player has won the Oscar Robertson Trophy. A consensus All-America selection and the USBWA’s District II Player of the Year, Brunson is a composite of a celebrated student-athlete. The 6-3 guard from Lincolnshire, Ill., led the Wildcats to a 27-4 regular-season record and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 19.1 points and 4.8 assists per game. His season shooting percentage is at 52.7 percent going into the Final Four, and he shoots 41.4 percent from three-point range. On the season, Brunson had 176 assists against only 67 turnovers, and he has scored in double-figures in every game for a team that never left the top-five of the national rankings.
Brunson was the Big East Player of the Year, becoming the third Villanova guard in the last five seasons to win the award, and has his team on the cusp of a second national championship in three seasons. He is the first Villanova player to score 700 or more points in a season (729) since Kerry Kittles in the 1994-95 season.
He was a freshman starter on Villanova’s 2016 national title team, averaging 9.6 points, and the former McDonald’s All-American out of Adlai Stevenson High School has built a tremendous career since. Brunson is fresh off being named the 2018 NCAA East Regional’s Most Outstanding Player after averaging 21.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in wins over Radford, Alabama, West Virginia and Texas Tech that earned the Wildcats a berth in the Final Four.
Against Texas Tech in the Elite Eight, Brunson scored a team-high 15 points to go with four assists. He scored 27 points playing against former AAU teammate Jevon Carter in Villanova’s 90-78 win over West Virginia in their Sweet 16 matchup.
Brunson was also the Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year. The College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) named Brunson as a second-team Academic All-American. Brunson carries a 3.34 grade-point average as a communications major.
Brunson is the second USBWA national player of the year from a Big East Conference school in the past five years (Doug McDermott of Creighton won in the 2013-14 season), but only the fourth overall. Chris Mullin and Walter Berry, both of St. John’s, earned USBWA honors in back-to-back seasons in 1984-85 and 1985-86.
The Oscar Robertson Trophy is voted on by the entire membership of the association, which consists of more than 900 journalists. It is the nation’s oldest award and the only one named after a former player. The legendary Oscar Robertson was the USBWA’s first player of the year in 1959 and was the consensus national player of the year as a sophomore in 1958, the year before USBWA started giving its player of the year award. The USBWA renamed the award the Oscar Robertson Trophy in 1998.
All-Time USBWA National Players of the Year:
2018 Jalen Brunson, Villanova
2017 Frank Mason III, Kansas
2016 Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
2015 Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
2014 Doug McDermott, Creighton
2013 Trey Burke, Michigan
2012 Anthony Davis, Kentucky
2011 Jimmer Fredette, BYU
2010 Evan Turner, Ohio State
2009 Blake Griffin, Oklahoma
2008 Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina
2007 Kevin Durant, Texas
2006 Tie Adam Morrison, Gonzaga; J.J. Redick, Duke
2005 Andrew Bogut, Utah
2004 Jameer Nelson, St. Joseph’s
2003 David West, Xavier
2002 Jay Williams, Duke
2001 Shane Battier, Duke
2000 Kenyon Martin, Cincinnati
1999 Elton Brand, Duke
1998 Antawn Jamison, North Carolina
1997 Tim Duncan, Wake Forest
1996 Marcus Camby, Massachusetts
1995 Ed O’Bannon, UCLA
1994 Glenn Robinson, Purdue
1993 Calbert Cheaney, Indiana
1992 Christian Laettner, Duke
1991 Larry Johnson, UNLV
1990 Lionel Simmons, La Salle
1989 Danny Ferry, Duke
1988 Hersey Hawkins, Bradley
1987 David Robinson, Navy
1986 Walter Berry, St. John’s
1985 Chris Mullin, St. John’s
1984 Michael Jordan, North Carolina
1983 Ralph Sampson, Virginia
1982 Ralph Sampson, Virginia
1981 Ralph Sampson, Virginia
1980 Mark Aguirre, DePaul
1979 Larry Bird, Indiana State
1978 Phil Ford, North Carolina
1977 Marques Johnson, UCLA
1976 Adrian Dantley, Notre Dame
1975 David Thompson, N.C. State
1974 Bill Walton, UCLA
1973 Bill Walton, UCLA
1972 Bill Walton, UCLA
1971 Sidney Wicks, UCLA
1970 Pete Maravich, LSU
1969 Pete Maravich, LSU
1968 Lew Alcindor, UCLA
1967 Lew Alcindor, UCLA
1966 Cazzie Russell, Michigan
1965 Bill Bradley, Princeton
1964 Walt Hazzard, UCLA
1963 Art Heyman, Duke
1962 Jerry Lucas, Ohio State
1961 Jerry Lucas, Ohio State
1960 Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati
1959 Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati
MARCH 27 – Next up? The 2018 NCAA Final Four! Digital Sports Desk provides all NCAA March Madness tournament game previews, in-progress scores and game recaps in our NCAA section and scoreboard at the top of our home page. For all NCAA March Madness information, simply click —> HERE.
Jalen Brunson scored 15 points to carry top-seeded Villanova past third-seeded Texas Tech 71-59 on Sunday in the East Regional Final of the NCAA Tournament in Boston.
Eric Paschall added 12 points and 14 rebounds, and Donte DiVincenzo and Mikal Bridges also scored 12 points apiece for the Wildcats, who advanced to the Final Four for the second time in three years. They won the national championship in 2016.
The Wildcats (34-4) will face Kansas in a national semifinal on Saturday at San Antonio. The Jayhawks beat Duke 85-81 in overtime Sunday in the Midwest Regional final.
Omari Spellman had 11 for the Wildcats, who shot 4 of 24 from 3-point territory but hit 29 of 35 free throws.
Villanova has won 134 games in the last four seasons, the most in a four-year mark since Duke won 133 from 1997-2001. The Wildcats advanced to the sixth Final Four in program history.
“We are very honored to be in this position,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “We played a really tough basketball team that had us scouted extremely well, took away our threes, really tested our ability to play tough and ugly. I think that was their game plan. I think Chris (Beard, Texas Tech’s coach,) did a great job with it, and our guys responded. I was really proud of them.
Keenan Evans led Texas Tech (27-10) with 12 points while Jarrett Culver added 11.
The Red Raiders appeared in the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.
Spellman drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give Villanova a 46-33 lead with 14:12 remaining.
The Wildcats went cold, missing nine of 10 shots yet still held a 46-35 advantage.
Texas Tech got within 50-42 with 7:38 left when Davide Moretti dropped in a 3-pointer.
Bridges responded with a jumper to boost Villanova’s lead to 52-42.
The Red Raiders scored the next five points and closed the gap to 52-47 with 5:54 left.
Bridges hit two clutch free throws to go up 59-51 with 2:47 remaining. It was enough of a cushion to propel Villanova into the Final Four.
“They’re a great defensive team, one of the best defensive teams in the country, and then one of the best teams we played against,” Brunson said. “So they did a really good job of sticking to the game plan, playing team defense.
“But for us, if shots aren’t falling for us, we try to make sure that’s not affecting us, that we’re getting stops on the defensive end. And still having confidence in ourselves that we can take shots on the offensive end.”
Villanova trailed 9-1 to start the game, its largest deficit in the tournament.
However, the Wildcats stepped up their defensive pressure and slowly built a double-digit lead at 34-23 when DiVincenzo completed a three-point play with just under a minute remaining before halftime.
Brunson followed with two free throws for a 36-23 lead. That was Villanova’s advantage at the half.
Texas Tech’s 23 points represented the squad’s lowest first-half output of the season. The Red Raiders shot 9 of 27 and missed nine of their 10 shots from beyond the 3-point arc before the break. Overall, Texas Tech made 5 of 20 from 3-point range and sank only 33.3 percent of its field-goal attempts.
Beard said, “Our defense gets a lot of attention. It’s our identity, which it should. We held Villanova to 33 percent shooting tonight. We made more field goals than them. But I think the difference in the game was their defense.
“That’s one of the best defenses we’ve played against. You know, we got some good shots, but they were all contested.”
Villanova dominated on the boards with a 26-13 edge in the first half, 51-33 overall.
“We really got whipped on the boards,” Beard said. “We haven’t got outrebounded like that all year. It’s a real problem.”
–Field Level Media
BOSTON – Villanova appears determined to shoot its way to the Final Four, while Texas Tech is employing an alternative strategy. The top-seeded Wildcats can secure their second Final Four berth in three seasons Sunday when they take on the third-seeded Red Raiders in the East Regional final in Boston.
The Wildcats shot 13-of-24 from 3-point range in Friday’s 12-point win over West Virginia, improving the team to 47.8 percent from the arc in their three tournament wins. “The deeper you go, the better the teams are going to be,” star guard Jalen Brunson said. “For us, most importantly, nothing changes no matter who we play, where we play, what time we play. We play every game like it’s our last.” While the Wildcats have made 44 3-pointers through three tournament games, the Red Raiders only have made 15 and are shooting just 31.3 percent from long range in this event, but will that percentage rate be enough against Villanova? “They’ve been the No. 1 team the whole season and are great all-around,” Texas Tech guard Keenan Evans said after Friday’s 78-65 win over Purdue in the Sweet 16. “They have a great point guard and great bigs that can shoot the ball, so we will just have to get back in the film room and study up on them and get some rest.”
TV: 2:20 p.m. ET, CBS
ABOUT TEXAS TECH (27-9): The Red Raiders rode a combined 45 points from Evans to first- and second-round wins, but the senior guard was limited to three field goals against Purdue, although he still scored 16 points to lead the team. Zach Smith added 14 points off the bench and is shooting 15-of-19 over the last four games, while freshman Zhaire Smith has registered double-digit points in all three Big Dance contests. Texas Tech, which is playing in the Elite Eight for the first time in school history, would love another big effort out of Justin Gray, who pitched in 12 points against Purdue, matching his second-highest total of the season.
ABOUT VILLANOVA (33-4): Brunson led the Wildcats with 27 points versus West Virginia, while freshman Omari Spellman registered 18 points and eight rebounds, not to mention three assists, three blocks and two steals. Brunson has made at least half his shots in six of the last seven games, while Mikal Bridges has done so in 11 of his last 12 games, and Bridges also carries a seven-game streak of draining at least 50 percent of his 3-pointers. Phil Booth, one of the stars from Villanova’s national championship game victory two years ago, is just 2-of-11 from the field over the last two games and 5-of-20 over the last four contests.
1. Villanova needs 10 3-pointers to tie the all-time Division I record for 3-pointers in a season. (VMI had 442 in 2006-07.)
2. Jarrett Culver leads Texas Tech with 54 3-pointers. By comparison, Booth has 52 3-pointers for Villanova and he is fifth on the Wildcats in made 3s.
3. The winner of this game will face the Midwest champion – either No. 1 seed Kansas or No. 2 seed Duke – in next week’s Final Four.