PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- On an afternoon when clean looks at the basket were hard to come by, it was only fitting that the game-winner was scored on an offensive rebound.
Redshirt freshman guard Donte DiVincenzo got a tip-in on a missed attempt by Josh Hart just before the final horn, giving the No. 1/2 Wildcats a pulsating 61-59 victory over the No. 12/13 Virginia Cavaliers. The game was played before the largest crowd to see a college basketball game in the 21 year history of the Wells Fargo Center (20,907).
"Josh made a great play," stated DiVincenzo, whose game-winning tip was the only basket he scored in the contest. "He saw the lane open and the defense turned their head, there was only a couple seconds left. If I didn't get it, I knew we were going into overtime. We just had to lock down defensively, but luckily I got a last second tip in."
"It was an unbelievable basketball game," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "We have so much respect for their team and their program. We were looking forward to this game, we just knew that we would be tested and we knew we were going to come out of this game learning a lot. We got a little lucky at the end, Donte made an unbelievable play, obviously not drawn up."
Virginia's reputation as an elite defensive team was reinforced over the game's first 30 minutes. The Wildcats failed to convert any of their first six attempts from the floor as the Cavaliers constructed a 7-2 advantage after Jalen Brunson dropped in two free throws to open the scoring. A Darius Thompson 3-pointer pushed the advantage to 10-2 before a basket by Eric Paschall gave VU its first field goal.
The Cavaliers' tenacious defense continued to hold the Wildcats in check for the balance of the period. A pair of deep 3-pointers by Ty Jerome helped Virginia craft a 22-12 cushion at the midpoint of the first half.
The Wildcats were limited to a season-low .182 shooting for the first 20 minutes (4-of-22). Only Bridges, Brunson and Paschall scored from the field in the period. Virginia, meanwhile, was successful on .462 of its field goal attempts in the period and had those three triples by Jerome (nine points).
Virginia stretched its advantage to 49-37 after a jumper by Marial Shayok with 9:58 to play in the period. But 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions by senior captains Hart and Kris Jenkins ignited the sellout crowd and the Wildcats. Villanova went on a 13-0 that was capped by a pair of Brunson free throws to give the `Cats a 50-59 lead with 5:13 to go in the contest.
Neither team would lead by more than a basket the rest of the way.
A Brunson drive and score snapped a 57-57 tie with 35 seconds left. Jerome answered with a tough drive of his own in traffic to knot matters at 59 with 15 seconds to play.
In the final sequence, Hart got the ball isolated on the right wing, drove into the lane, and got a shot on the rim as a trio of Cavaliers surrounded him. The shot came off on the left side, and DiVincenzo raced in to tip it in just before the buzzer sounded. The basket was ruled as good on the court and confirmed by an officials review.
"This game was just great," said Wright. "There was incredible electricity in the building and you're playing against a good team."