SAN ANTONIO (NBC Sports) — Donte 3-Vincenzo.
He’s Villanova’s sixth-man, and he’s also the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, as he went for 31 points, breaking Luke Hancock’s record for the most points scored by a bench player in a title game as Villanova won their second national title in three seasons, dispatching Michigan, 79-62, on Monday night in San Antonio. It’s the most points that anyone has scored in a national title game since 1989, when Seton Hall’s John Morton did it in overtime in a losing effort.
But that is not the most impressive part of Villanova’s win.
This is: The Wildcats essentially did it without Jalen Brunson, the National Player of the Year.
Brunson struggled on Monday night. He finished with just nine points, two assists and two boards while shooting 4-for-13 from the floor. He also picked up his fourth foul with 10:51 left in the second half. Villanova held a 53-40 lead then. By the time he returned to the floor, with 3:21 left on the clock, the lead was 20 points and the game was over.
How many teams in the college basketball history can legitimately say they are good enough to win a national title game without that kind of contribution from the best player in the sport.
The Wolverines actually led this game 21-14 midway through the first half and looked like they had a chance to take control.
The turning point came midway through the first half, when Villanova made a tactical adjustment on the defensive end of the floor. Having spent the first half of the first half — and, frankly, the majority of the season — switching all exchanges on the defensive end, Jay Wright quickly realized that John Beilein, offensive mastermind that he is, had spent the 48 hours between beating Loyola-Chicago and tipping off against Villanova figuring out a way to beat that defense.
So he changed up.
Instead of switching, Villanova started playing straight man-to-man.
This change coincided with two moments that seemed to spark the Wildcats. With 9:54 left in the half, a loose ball led to a tie-up between Mo Wagner and Phil Booth, and that led to some afters. Wagner bumped Booth. Booth had something to say about it, and it was clear throughout the rest of the game that, whatever Wagner did, the Villanova players were not happy about it. Wagner and Eric Paschall had to be separated during a free throw box-out a few minutes later, and early in the second half both Wagner and Omari Spellman were whistled for double-technicals.
Two minutes after the initial dust-up, Brunson showed more emotion than he’s shown in his entire career, pounding the ball over and over again and gesticulating at the officials as he was complaining about the defense that was being played on him by the perennially-annoying Zavier Simpson.
Whatever the cause was, the result was not good, not for the Wolverines.
They led 21-14 with 10:59 left in the first half.
They trailed 51-33 with 13:54 left in the game.
He scored 11 of Michigan’s first 21 points. He scored five points in the final 31 minutes.
And with that, Villanova were the national champions once again.