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SAN ANTONIO - Donte DiVincenzo came off the bench to pour in 31 points to lead Villanova to a 79-62 win over Michigan in the 2018 National Championship Game and claim the game’s Most Outstanding Player award.
Michigan’s defense was its biggest strength. KenPom’s analytics ranked the Wolverines’ defense as third best in the country, but DiVincenzo split them up all night. Villanova brought home its second title in three years, and he’s a big reason why.
DiVincenzo hit 5 of his 7 shots from beyond the arc. His teammates were 5 for 22. Michigan’s perimeter defense is one of the best in the country, but the Wolverines were no match for Villanova’s red-headed marksman.
DiVincenzo usually shoots a perfectly respectable 39 percent on threes. He was outstanding on Monday when it mattered most.
The Wolverines were up as many as seven points over Villanova in the first half, and it looked like they’d have a shot at pulling off an upset over the favored Wildcats.
DiVincenzo’s 3-pointer in the second half is when we all knew Villanova had this game for sure.
But his 25th, 26th and 27th points were perhaps the biggest. DiVincenzo knocked down a 3 to make it 62-44 with under 8 minutes to go and virtually put the game and the national title away for the Wildcats.
He doesn’t start for Villanova, but DiVincenzo is an integral part of what makes the Wildcats go. He averages 13 points per game, good for third on the best offense in the country, and played in 70 percent of the team’s minutes this season.
This isn’t DiVincenzo’s first rodeo, either. He’s in his junior season for Villanova, so he was a member of the Wildcats team that won the 2016 title over North Carolina. But DiVincenzo didn’t play in the championship game that time. He made sure no one would forget about him this time around.
Michigan’s defense was able to lock down everyone in March. Only two opponents shot 40 percent or better on 3-pointers since the beginning of February, and the one time a postseason opponent had any kind of success with the long ball against the Wolverines, it was in Michigan’s blowout win against Texas A&M in the Sweet 16.
Guards Zavier Simpson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and transfer wing Charles Matthews have been Michigan’s defensive standouts. They disrupted opposing offenses on the outside and made it hard for teams to get open shots. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Michigan contested Loyola-Chicago’s first 16 shots in the second half of their Final Four game on Saturday and only allowed 3 uncontested shots in the second half.
Moe Wagner and Duncan Robinson have been more effective on offense than on defense, but Michigan’s excellent on-ball defense meant that the Wolverines don’t need shot blockers on the inside to succeed. Wagner’s draw in the championship was Omari Spellman, and that battle wasn’t just down low but all over the court. Both are 3-point threats with post moves, and though Wagner is more polished on offense, Spellman is no easy matchup.
Michigan’s offense ranked 31st in KenPom’s efficiency ratings, and without a dominant showing from Wagner on Saturday, the Wolverines wouldn’t have been in the finals. But the Wolverines’ defensive prowess and slow pace usually keep opponents from racing too far away. That was put to the ultimate test in the National Championship Game.
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