VILLANOVA, Pa. – On a Saturday afternoon when redshirt sophomore guard Donte DiVincenzo established new career highs in points (30) and minutes played (40), there was something else that most excited his head coach about DiVincenzo’s floor work against Butler.
“He probably played his best defensive game of the year,” stated Wildcats head coach Jay Wright. “At the top of the zone he kept everyone in front of him. He guarded everybody. He was involved in rebounding – even though he didn’t get a lot of them, he was in there keeping balls alive.
“We’ve seen him get 30 points in high school and in practice he plays like that. It was really what he did defensively and being able to play 40 minutes that hard defensively and on the glass that stood out to me.”
Earlier in the 2017-18 season Wright often referred to the native of Wilmington, Del., as the Wildcats’ sixth starter. Since Phil Booth went to the sidelines with a fractured bone in his right (shooting) hand on Jan. 24, DiVincenzo has started five games and averaged 18.8 points per game in that stretch.
In their last two outings, St. John’s and Butler were able to slow the Wildcats’ potent attack from beyond the 3-point line. Villanova is just 14-of-51 from beyond the arc in its last two games (.275) though it still leads the BIG EAST in 3-point percentage for all games (.408).
“When teams do that to you, you have to have guys who can go 1-on-1 and make plays,” stated Wright. “Donte and Jalen (Brunson) are two of our best guys, not just at getting points, but making plays for others. They did a great job of that (Saturday) and Butler forces you into that. You want to try to run your offense and share the ball, but they just get on top of you and stay with shooters.”
Villanova (23-2 overall, 10-2 BIG EAST) defeated Providence 89-69 on Jan. 23 but a good bit has changed for the Wildcats since that night. Phil Booth suffered a fractured right (shooting) hand late in that contest and has not played since. Redshirt junior Eric Paschall missed two games last week in concussion protocol after symptoms arose on Feb. 7.
“With concussion protocol it’s just one day at a time,” noted Wright. “If you have one day that you have any symptoms it starts the cycle all over again.”
Meanwhile, Massachusetts native Jermaine Samuels, who was still sidelined by a fractured bone in his left hand at the time of the previous meeting, has returned and averaged 4.0 rebounds per contest in the two games he has played since. Collin Gillespie has seen his role expand of late too in Booth’s absence (21 minutes, five points, four rebounds vs. Butler).
Providence (16-9 overall, 7-5 BIG EAST), meanwhile, wraps up a three game home-stand Wednesday night. It split the first two of those games, downing Georgetown 73-69 before falling to DePaul 80-63 on Saturday.
“It’s always a battle when we go into the Dunkin Donuts Center,” stated Wright.
Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery will have the call on FS1 Wednesday night beginning at 7 p.m. Ryan Fannon and Whitey Rigsby do the honors on the Villanova radio call on 610 Sports Radio with the pregame show on the air at 6:30 p.m.
The 2017-18 Villanova Men’s Basketball season is presented by KeyBank.