Villanova displayed a flair for the dramatic tonight in their first game of the NCAA Tournament played at the Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY. Sweeping Mount St. Mary’s 76-56, the Wildcats weathered through a sluggish first half to ultimately establish their dominant pace.
Mount St. Mary’s exerted peak defensive pressure early, resulting in a slow start for Villanova. So slow in fact that the Wildcats coasted to the near the 13 minute mark without a single point on the scoreboard. Guarding ‘Nova to shoot 0-for-8, the Mount showed a constant elasticity in their defense.
Donte DiVincenzo finally injected shooting life into the Wildcat offense, foreshadowing the major impact the redshirt freshman would continue throughout the game. Sophomore Jalen Brunson aided in providing vitality for ‘Nova, but Mount St. Mary’s would not shrug off their shooting. In fact, Villanova only secured a one-point lead in the final seconds of the first half, thanks to Brunson’s relentless drive.
At the half, Mount St. Mary’s shooting felt insurmountable to overcome. While the Mountaineers were tied with ‘Nova shooting 40 percent of field goals, the Mount maintained 33 percent of 3FGs, compared to Villanova’s paltry 11 percent.
However, the second half brought new life for Villanova, in the name of none other than Josh Hart. The senior guard, who picked up two fouls early on and consequently sat-out a large portion of the game’s beginning, returned to the court with vigor.
Seemingly feeding off Hart’s energy, DiVincenzo simply exploded. Earning his first career double-double (21 points, 13 rebounds) the proclaimed “Michael Jordan of Delaware” flexed his excitement. DiVincenzo’s incessant need to grab rebounds kept ‘Nova in the contest the first half, and propelled the Wildcats to a comfortable margin of victory.
While the Mount’s Miles Wilson led the Mountaineers fight with 22 points, a rhythmic Villanova was not to be readily halted. By the end, Mount St. Mary’s field goal shooting fell to 37 percent, while Villanova amped to 52 percent. The Mount’s three-point efforts also took a dip, falling to 24 percent, whereas the Wildcats dialed in to 35 percent of 3FGs.
Villanova moves on to the Round of 32 to face the winner of (8) Wisconsin/(9)Virginia Tech on Saturday.