SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Michigan’s Zavier Simpson caught a quick pass, took a dribble to the rim and went up for what should’ve been an easy layup.
That’s when Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo come flying in from behind to stuff the layup into the side of the rim and force a jump ball.
On this night, with a national championship on the line, it was a fitting reminder that this Wildcats team is more than just a remarkably good 3-point shooting team. It was a tournament-tested group capable of winning in a variety of ways — and in Monday’s 79-62 win against Michigan, it was just as much about Villanova’s strong defensive finish to the first half and its rebounding as it was about that oh-so-good offense.
After the Wolverines started the game 8 for 12, Villanova (36-4) held Michigan to 3-for-16 shooting for the final 11 minutes of the half as the Wildcats dug out from an early 21-14 deficit to lead 37-28 by the break. That included a stretch of seven straight misses, followed by the Wolverines missing their last six shots of the half — one of those being DiVincenzo’s soaring-in block of Simpson.
That bought time for the Wildcats offense to figure things out and get moving after a bumpy start, even if they came nowhere near duplicating that Final Four-record 18 3-pointers against Kansas from Saturday’s national semifinals.
Then there was the rebounding. The Wildcats finished with a 38-27 edge on the glass for the game, many of those coming to secure each defensive stop as they took over in those game-turning minutes before halftime.
The Wildcats had already proven earlier this tournament they weren’t just one of college basketball’s best offensive teams in recent memory.
Look back to the Elite Eight, when Villanova shot just 33 percent and made 4 of 24 3-pointers against Texas Tech. That day it was about a tough-minded defensive effort that held the Red Raiders to 33 percent shooting and a dominating effort on the glass (51-33, including 20 offensive rebounds) to secure a trip to San Antonio.
The Wildcats did enough of both on Monday night to secure coach Jay Wright’s second national championship in three seasons.
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