Villanova 81, Alabama 58
Where: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh
Special to Digital Sports Desk by Field Level Media
PITTSBURGH – Mikal Bridges scored 22 of his 23 points in the second half to lift Villanova past Alabama 81-58 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament’s East Region Saturday at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.
Donte DiVincenzo added 18 points for the No. 1 seeded Wildcats (32-4), who hadn’t advanced out of the second round in three of the last four years though they did capture the national championship in 2016. Jalen Brunson contributed 12 for Villanova, which made 17 shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
The Wildcats, who are participating in their sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament, will face either No. 5 West Virginia or No. 13 Marshall in the round of 16 Friday in Boston.
Collin Sexton led No. 9 seed Alabama (20-16) with 17 points, its only player to reach double figures.
It was the Crimson Tide’s first NCAA berth in the last six years.
Bridges, who missed all five of his shots in the first half, came out extra aggressive after halftime with five quick points to give Villanova a 37-27 lead just 50 seconds in. Phil Booth followed with a vicious dunk for a 39-27 advantage. A 9-0 run was then capped by Bridges’ high-flying dunk and a 41-27 lead, forcing Alabama head coach Avery Johnson to take an early timeout.
At this stage, Alabama had 11 made field goals and 11 turnovers.
The second half run ballooned to 12-0 and a 44-27 lead when Bridges hit a 3-pointer.
Bridges remained red hot with another trey to make it a 50-28 lead. He scored an amazing 16 points in the first 4:31 of the second half.
Brunson’s deep 3-pointer pushed Villanova ahead 56-31 and the rout was on.
DiVincenzo came off the bench and sparked the Wildcats late in the first half with nine straight points, giving them a 22-15 lead with 6:50 remaining.
DiVincenzo later stole the ball, dribbled in from half-court and scored for a 26-19 advantage.
Alabama’s scrappy defensive effort kept the game close as the Wildcats held a slim 26-22 lead with 3:10 left. Sexton’s jumper from 18 feet cut the Villanova lead to 26-25 to cap a 6-0 run.
Brunson was saddled with two fouls for most of the half but the Wildcats managed to take a 32-27 lead into the locker room.
DiVincenzo led all scorers with five 3-pointers and 18 points.
Sexton paced the Crimson Tide with nine points.
–Field Level Media