Villanova Family: Monday’s success stems from development within program

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SAN ANTONIO — The iconic moment of the 2018 NCAA Tournament, the lasting image that will be meme’d and gif’d ad nauseum by the Villanova faithful until the internet no longer exists, came after Donte DiVincenzo hit his fifth and final three against Michigan, a dagger that pushed Villanova’s lead back 18 points and capped off a three-possession stretch where the redshirt sophomore had scored nine points.

After holding his pose, DiVincenzo turned to head back down court while flashing a wink, aimed at a Villanova section of San Antonio’s Alamodome, but intended for a specific person.

Josh Hart.

The former Wildcat and current rookie with the Los Angeles Lakers has something of a sibling rivalry raging with the man known as The Michael Jordan of Delaware.

“Me and Josh have a unique relationship,” DiVincenzo said, flooded by media after scoring 31 points in a 79-62 title game win over Michigan, wearing a shirt that was drenched by a celebratory postgame water fight while the piece of net tied around his ‘Villanova: National Champions’ hat had started to fray at the ends. “We love each other, but we competed against each other so hard. We got into a lot.”

Both are ruthlessly competitive, even — particularly — in practice. DiVincenzo broke his foot eight games into his freshman season, which meant that he was forced into a redshirt role. His games were practice. His One Shining Moment during the 2016 run to a National Title came as a scout team player. “‘Buddy Hield’ Donte was a special person,” Jalen Brunson, who is DiVincenzo’s classmate despite being a year older, eligibility-wise. “It’s someone that might have just came out tonight.”

“When I got back from my injury and I was able to practice and work out, he didn’t want me to have any good days,” DiVincenzo said of Hart. “I would see him start to lose his cool a little bit and I would start to push his buttons.”

And that’s where the wink came from.

DiVincenzo wanted to let Hart know that he got a title of his own.

“That’s my guy. I’ve seen him grow up, seen him work, that’s just love,” Hart said, a smile on his face reminiscent of a father watching his son come of age. “All love for him. Obviously I won one, but it means so much more to me that they won one.”


(Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Ryan Arcidiacono wasn’t going to come to San Antonio this weekend.

Arch is currently on a two-way contract with a team that is in the thick of the race to win the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Put another way, being the 16th-man on the roster of a team that is trying to lose games is not exactly the sign of a player that has job security. The Bulls played on Sunday night. They have another game on Tuesday night in Chicago, and the money that he’s making isn’t going to be paying for many private jets.

Arch ended up on a chartered flight out of Chicago that landed in San Antonio at 3:45 p.m.

By the time you read this story, he’ll likely already be wheels down in Chi-town, a 6 a.m. departure making the possibility of sleep fairly unlikely. All told, he spent 14 hours boots on the ground in Texas.

Josh Hart’s schedule was similarly complicated. His private jet from Los Angeles to San Antonio touched down around the same time that Arch’s flight landed. Hart didn’t even tell the team he was coming. They found out by watching his Instagram story.

Kris Jenkins?

He’s been in town since Thursday, working on Villanova’s scout team and giving his team a chance to scrimmage against a guy that had played in the G League this season. Kyle Lowry, Randy Foye, Kerry Kittles, Ed Pinkney. They were all in the Alamodome on Monday night.

“Without a doubt,” Hart said, “this one is better than mine. I was there so I knew everything that it took to get. But to leave and then have the guys that you tried to help mentor take the program and elevate it to a new level.”

And to a man, everyone on the Villanova roster now and everyone that made their way back to see the team play in San Antonio feels the same way. They all know each other, maybe not the way that classmates know each other, but the alumni are always around. They come back to campus to work out. The pickup games in the school’s gym during the summer are the best run in the city if you can get an invite.

“They are TOUGH,” Omari Spellman said with a smile, making sure to mention that the same issues plague their games — phantom travels, six fouls called when it is point-game — that plague your Sunday morning runs at the park. “Kyle Lowry is the cheater.”

“As juniors and seniors, you need to take care of the younger guys,” Arcidiacono said. “You know they’re the next generation of Villanova basketball players. That’s why you see alums like us take great pride in them winning a national championship because we feel like part of it as teammates. We taught them the way.”

“I feel like I’m a part of it,” added Jenkins, and that gets at the core of Villanova’s success over the last half-decade.

Jay Wright made a conscious effort six or seven years ago to change the kind of player that he targeted in recruiting. No longer was he recruiting to a player’s talent level, to their status in the various recruiting ranking there are out there, and hoping they would fit in with the Villanova Family. Instead, he begin identifying and targeting the players that he thought fit his idea of a college basketball player and then went from there.

Sometimes, that resulted in Villanova landing a McDonald’s All-American like Jalen Brunson, but most of the time it meant that they brought in a lesser-known prospect — like a Kris Jenkins or a Josh Hart — because the fit made sense. Each and every one of those new additions understood what was going to be asked of them. You might sit on the bench for a year or two. You might even be forced to take a redshirt season.

Either way, it’s not easy to do.

“Coming in, not playing right away, the system, adjusting to the college game, not being a real contributor like I would want to be,” said Jermaine Samuels, who has played sparingly followed his recovery from a broken bone in his left hand. “You never know what will happen in a season, and the worst happened. I’ll learn from it.”

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Collin Gillispie added.

Gillispie, in fact, thought that he was going to have to redshirt this season, but that idea fell through once head coach Jay Wright realized just how much he was going to need his backup point guard.

He didn’t want it to happen.

But he understood the importance of it because he understood the importance of a redshirt season in the development of Omari Spellman and Eric Paschall. Those two lost a combined 75 pounds in their year on the sidelines. They turned this Villanova offense into the juggernaut that it became.

It worked for DiVincenzo as well.

“We talked about it. He can learn from the sideline and see whats going on,” John DiVincenzo, Donte’s dad, said. “So it was a learning experience.”

“We’ve been in it with these guys,” Jenkins said. “They took the program and elevated it.”

“We won it in 2016. For them to get here, it’s just amazing.”


(Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The rivalry between DiVincenzo and Hart has cooled somewhat this season.

That’s what happens when you don’t have daily practice wars against one another, and it helped that Hart, once he graduated, told DiVincenzo that, “I see something in you. That’s the reason why I pushed you so hard.”

Hart made it to the stage after the win. He watched One Shining Moment from the same spot that he watched it in 2016, as did DiVincenzo.

The circumstances surrounding for DiVincenzo’s celebration this season were wildly different than they were in 2016.

“I was on the bench in a suit,” he said, a medical redshirt whose impact on the team was limited to scout team minutes. “That last play, the ball got to Kris and I had so much confidence in that shot that I was standing up before it even released.”

On Monday night, with confetti falling around them and the tears starting and stopping, Hart told DiVincenzo how proud he is of his pupil.

“You finally got a ring!” Hart said.

DiVincenzo, ever the competitor, responded the only what he could: “No.”

“I’ve got two now.”

No. 13 Iowa State rolls past eighth-ranked Kansas 68-53

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AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes scored all 15 of his points in the second half as No. 13 Iowa State rolled past No. 8 Kansas 68-53 on Saturday.

Osun Osunniyi added 13 for the Cyclones (16-6, 7-3 Big 12), who stayed within at least a game of front-running Texas in the conference standings. Tamin Lipsey added eight rebounds and 10 assists.

“Today, we came out and played desperate,” Holmes said.

Jalen Wilson led the Jayhawks (18-5, 6-4) with 26 points for his sixth straight game with at least 20. No other Kansas player had more than 8 points.

“It’s not a formula for success for us,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “We need balance from our starting five. If one guy feels like he’s got to go do it all on his own, it crashes the offense.”

The Cyclones led for all but 1:14 of the game, building a 34-16 scoring edge in the paint. Kansas struggled early, making just two of their first 10 shots and committing 11 turnovers in the first 20 minutes.

Iowa State shot 46% for the game.

“From the beginning, we gave them some easy buckets,” Wilson said. “That’s something we’ve struggled with (defensively) … the easiest way to get comfortable is easy buckets, layups, stuff like that.”

Iowa State was up 33-21 at the break.

Holmes missed all four shots in the first half, but after getting sick at halftime, he helped the Cyclones stretched the lead to 42-31 early in the second half with a 3-pointer and layup.

“I felt a little nauseous the whole day,” he said. “I’ve been dealing with some sickness over the past week and a half.”

BIG PICTURE

Kansas: The Jayhawks dropped to 3-4 during a stretch in which six of its seven opponents were ranked. The lone unranked foe was Kentucky. … Kansas committed a season-high 20 turnovers Saturday. … The loss to Iowa State was Self’s first in five meetings with second-year Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger.

Iowa State: Improved to 12-0 at home this season and 5-0 in the Big 12. It was also the Cyclones’ fifth win over a top-10 opponent in the past two seasons.

UP NEXT

Kansas: Hosts No. 10 Texas on Monday.

Iowa State: Travels to West Virginia on Wednesday.

Bishop helps No. 10 Texas rally past No. 7 K-State, 69-66

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – Christian Bishop was as frustrated as anyone in a Texas jersey in the first half Saturday. He’d been held without a point by Kansas State and, not surprisingly, the No. 10 Longhorns were facing a double-digit deficit on the road.

Maybe that’s why he punctuated every bucket in the second half with a fist pump.

Bishop poured in 14 points after the break to lead the Longhorns’ comeback, including the go-ahead lay-in with 37 seconds to go, and the new Big 12 leaders held on for a 69-66 victory over the No. 7 Wildcats on Saturday.

“Christian’s been working really hard over the last couple of games to get him back to the level he was playing four or five games ago,” interim Texas coach Rodney Terry said. “He really came out and rebounded and gave our team an incredible lift the way he played the second half.”

Red-hot guard Sir’Jabari Rice also had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Longhorns, and it was his two free throws with nine seconds left that forced the Wildcats into needing a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime.

After a quick timeout, the Wildcats’ Ismael Massoud got an open look from the wing but came up well short of the basket, allowing the Longhorns to hold on for their fifth win over a Top 25 team this season.

Tyrese Hunter and Marcus Carr added 10 points apiece for Texas (19-4, 8-2), which took over sole possession of first place in the rough-and-tumble Big 12 by avenging its overtime loss to the Wildcats (18-5, 6-4) early last month.

“Our league, we don’t have any bad teams,” Terry said. “To come in on a home court against a top-10 team and have this kind of performance, I’ll stack it up with one of the best wins I’ve been part of in 30 years of coaching.”

Keyontae Johnson struggled through foul trouble but still had 16 points to lead the Wildcats, who have lost back-to-back games for the first time this season. Desi Sills scored 11 points and Markquis Nowell had 10, but he also had six turnovers, including one with less than a minute to go and Kansas State down by one.

“I don’t want to wash this one. I want to live with this one for 36 hours,” Wildcats coach Jerome Tang said. “Everybody in our arena did our job except the coaches and players on the floor.”

Kansas State and Texas played one of the most entertaining games of the season in Austin, when they went bucket-for-bucket through regulation and into overtime. The Wildcats eventually escaped with a 116-103 victory.

Early on Saturday, Texas looked as if it would struggle to score half as much.

With the Wildcats clamping down on the perimeter, the Longhorns kept throwing the ball away, and at one point had seven turnovers against just five made shots. They also went a stretch of more than 7 minutes with just one field goal.

Kansas State took advantage of their offensive malaise.

Despite the sure-handed Nowell’s turnover trouble, and leading scorer Johnson picking up his third foul with 5 1/2 minutes left in the half, the Wildcats steadily built a lead. It reached as many as 14 before Texas made three free throws in the final second to get within 36-25 heading to the locker room.

It was the spark the Longhorns needed: They made their first six shots of the second half, and their run spanning the break eventually reached 17-4 while getting them within 40-39 with 15 minutes left in the game.

“There were points in the second half we did get rushed,” Nowell said, “and it led to turnovers and fast-break points.”

Rice’s 3-pointer a few minutes later gave Texas its first lead since the opening minutes. And when the Wildcats went on a nearly 5-minute scoring drought, Bishop began to assert control, the Creighton transfer scoring 11 points over a 6-minute stretch and punctuating each of them with a roar and a fist pump.

Just like their first meeting Jan. 3, though, the rematch Saturday was destined to go down to the wire.

“There’s no blowouts in our league,” Tang said.

BIG PICTURE

Texas could do nothing right in the first half and nothing wrong in the second, shooting 57% from the floor over the final 20 minutes. Most of the success came in the paint; the Longhorns were just 4 of 16 from the 3-point arc.

Kansas State couldn’t overcome 19 turnovers, including six by Nowell, who had 36 points, nine assists and eight rebounds when the teams met in Austin. He had just six rebounds and three assists on Saturday.

UP NEXT

Texas heads down Interstate 70 to face eighth-ranked Kansas on Monday night.

Kansas State wraps its homestand against No. 15 TCU on Tuesday night.

James leads No. 2 Tennessee over No. 25 Auburn, 46-43

Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Josiah-Jordan James scored 15 points and 14 rebounds to lead No. 2 Tennessee to a 46-43 victory over No. 25 Auburn on Saturday in a game in which every point was difficult and nothing flowed.

“Both teams played as hard as they could,” said Tennessee coach Rick Barnes. “Every possession was a grind.”

The Volunteers (19-4, 8-2 Southeastern Conference) shot just 27% from the field and 9.5% from the 3-point line. They were recovering from a Wednesday loss to Florida in which they shot 28%.

Tennessee had a 47-42 edge on the boards and 15-8 on the offensive glass.

“A game like this shows a lot of character,” said James. “I knew coming in (rebounding) was what I’d be called to do. I had to use the body God’s given me.”

“Both teams did a fantastic job,” said Auburn coach Bruce Pearl. “To hold Tennessee to 27% … It doesn’t get any better than that.”

“I don’t think there’s a more physical league in the country,” said Barnes.

The Tigers (17-6, 7-3) were led by Johni Broome with 11 points and nine rebounds and K.D. Johnson off the bench with 10 points. Auburn managed only 24% from the field and 11% from the 3-point line.

Jaylin Williams made two free throws with 2:47 to play cut Tennessee’s lead to 40-38. Santiago Vescovi hit his first 3-pointer of the game and got a four-point play out of it for a 44-38 lead. A 3-pointer by Wendell Green Jr. cut the advantage to 44-41 with 30 seconds left.

A turnover on the inbounds play gave Auburn the ball with 23 seconds to play. Broome got a tip-in to make it a one-point game, and Zakai Zeigler made two free throws.

Green’s last-second 3-point to tie clanked out.

“At the end, Wendell Green got the shot off and got fouled,” said Pearl. “Nothing got called.”

Auburn scored eight straight points to start the game. Tennessee followed with a six-point run and an eight-point spurt early in the second half. Those were the longest runs of the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Tennessee was in the No. 2 spot in the poll for two days before falling at Florida. Under Barnes, the Vols now have 25 wins over teams ranked in the Top 25. . Auburn had been clinging to the elite at No. 25 this week. The Tigers have been ranked as high as No. 11, coming in the fifth week of the season.

STAT SNACKS

Since statistics started being kept in 1999-2000, Tennessee is on pace to be the all-time leader in field-goal percentage defense (.348; Stanford, 1999-2000, is second .352) and 3-point defense (.225; Norfolk State, 2004-05, is second .253). . Through 22 games, the similarities between last year’s Vols point guard Kennedy Chandler (now with the Memphis Grizzlies) and this year’s Ziegler are striking (points per game: Chandler 13.5, Ziegler 11.4; rebounds: 3.0, 3.0; assists: 4.95, 5.05).

UP NEXT

Auburn: The Tigers will host Texas A&M on Tuesday night.

Tennessee: The Vols will tackle in-state rival Vanderbilt in Nashville on Wednesday.

Pedulla’s 22 points lift Virginia Tech past No. 6 Virginia

Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
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BLACKSBURG, Va. – Sean Pedulla scored 22 points and Virginia Tech beat No. 6 Virginia 74-68 on Saturday, snapping the Cavaliers’ seven-game winning streak.

Pedulla made 6 of 13 from the floor as the Hokies (14-10, 4-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) posted their biggest win of the season. He added 8 of 9 from the free-throw line. Justin Mutts added 17 points.

Virginia Tech never trailed and shot 50% from the floor for the fourth straight game.

“There was no pouting (after the Miami loss). Just back to practice the next day,” Virginia Tech coach Mike Young said of his team, which lost 92-83 to No. 23 Miami on Tuesday. “Yeah, we’ve got Virginia coming in. Yes, in-state and all of that stuff. We’ve got another opportunity to play another really good opponent. We’ve got a chance to play Virginia Tech basketball and fight and compete and adhere to the things that are important to us – and we did that by and large on both ends of the floor.”

Jayden Gardner’s 20 points led Virginia (17-4, 9-3), which saw its usually stingy defense struggle. Kihei Clark finished with 17 points for the Cavaliers, while Reece Beekman had 15. Armaan Franklin, who had scored in double figures in 10 straight games, had six.

The Cavaliers tied the game at 38 on Gardner’s basket with 15:09 remaining, but the Hokies outscored Virginia 17-7 over the next seven minutes and never looked back.

Mutts hit 7 of 11 from the floor and added eight assists and four rebounds. Grant Basile had 14 points and Hunter Cattoor scored all 10 of his points in the second half for the Hokies.

“The heart was there, but to win in this setting against a team that’s playing good basketball, and Tech is, and they’ve got the players, you’ve got to be hard and smart,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “You can’t just be all hard. We were (hard and smart) for stretches, and they made us make some adjustments that helped a little bit, but they made the big shots.”

TIP-INS

Virginia: The Cavaliers suffered a rare poor outing on the defensive end, and it cost them. They led the ACC in scoring defense (60.2 ppg) going in, but allowed the Hokies to score 74 points and shoot 50.9% (27 of 53) from the floor. The Hokies became just the third team this season to shoot better than 50% against Virginia and scored 40 points in the paint.

“They run a lot of action, whether it’s dribble handoffs, fakes, they keep you on your toes, and it takes an incredible, and I think disciplined (effort) to keep them in front and keep them out of the paint,” Bennett said.

Virginia Tech: After losing eight of their previous 10 games, the Hokies needed a big win to help their thin NCAA Tournament resume. Registering 19 assists and turning the ball over just eight times were keys.

“Obviously, we keep up with stuff throughout the year, like `Oh, this would be a huge win on our resume,”‘ Pedulla said. “We do think about (the NCAA Tournament), and we obviously want to get there again. We know our team’s capable of it. We’re focused on it and we’re just trying to stack those wins on top of each other. I think this win definitely helps us.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Cavaliers were one-point underdogs going into the game, so they shouldn’t drop more than a few spots in Monday’s poll.

UP NEXT

Virginia: Hosts N.C. State on Tuesday.

Virginia Tech: Takes on Boston College in Blacksburg on Wednesday.

Pack’s 20 lead No. 23 Miami to 78-74 win over No. 20 Clemson

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CLEMSON, S.C. – Miami coach Jim Larranaga has a message he routinely tells his players.

“Coach L always says, `Calm, cool, collected will win you games,”‘ Hurricanes reserve Bensley Joseph said with a smile.

No. 23 Miami needed every bit of that mantra to hold off No. 20 Clemson, 78-74, on Saturday. Nijel Pack scored 20 points, Isaiah Wong 15 and the Hurricanes held on after opening a 12-point lead in the second half.

“We were able to do that in the last five minutes,” Joseph said.

Wong and Pack each hit 3-pointers right after halftime for the Hurricanes (18-5, 9-4 Atlantic Coast Conference), who used a 21-9 run to open a 56-44 lead with 11:10 to play.

The Tigers sliced the deficit to 76-74 on Alex Hemenway’s 3-pointer with 0.9 seconds to play. Pack was fouled on the inbounds and calmly – there’s that word, again – made two foul shots to finish off the victory.

Clemson (18-6, 10-3) lost its second straight game after opening ACC play 10-1.

The Hurricanes stepped up their offense after halftime. Pack had 14 of his points in the final half while Wong had 11 points over the final 20 minutes. Miami hit six of its nine 3-pointers in that period.

Larranaga felt the excitement of the sold-out Clemson crowd at Littlejohn Coliseum. The poise the Hurricanes showed was essential in the victory.

“To come out in the second half and be able take the lead under these circumstances says a lot about our team,” Larranaga said. “That we were very competitive, and didn’t let the crowd take us out of our gameplan.”

Wooga Poplar added 14 points for Miami while Jordan Miller had 12.

PJ Hall had 17 of his team-high 19 points in the second half for the Tigers. Hunter Tyson added 13 points and 10 rebounds, his ninth double-double in Clemson’s 13 league games.

Tyson thought his team’s defense needed to be tougher. “We couldn’t get the stops when we needed to,” he said. “They scored 78 in our gym. That should never happen.”

Miami came in with the ACC’s third highest scoring offense while Clemson was third in the league in defense.

The Hurricanes used a 16-8 run closed on Miller’s tip-in of his own miss to lead 30-25 with five minutes left in the half.

But Tyson hit a pair of threes, had a step back basket and took a charge on the other end as Clemson answered with a 10-1 burst to move in front 35-31.

Miami, though, answered last as Harlond Beverly’s jam in the final minute tied things at 35-all heading to the break.

The Hurricanes did a strong job early on Clemson’s main force down low in Hall, holding the 14-point a game scorer to 1-of-5 shooting and just one rebound the first 20 minutes.

Clemson did a similar job on Miami’s driving force, Wong, who also made one of his five first-half attempts.

BIG PICTURE

Miami: The Hurricanes showed the scoring punch and defense that’s kept them among the Top 25 this season. They were six of 12 on 3-pointers in the second half and hit 13 of 15 foul shots to thwart a Clemson comeback.

Clemson: The Tigers have had a difficult week, the first-place ACC team losing at Boston College 62-54 before get run over early in the second half against Miami. The 0-2 stretch will likely mean Clemson will drop from the poll, although they’ll still be on top in the ACC standings.

BREAK TIME

Clemson doesn’t play until next Saturday. Tigers coach Brad Brownell said it’s probably a good time for time off. There’s been a mix of fatigue and handling player absences due to injury that have taken a toll on the Tigers, he said. “The good news is we’re whole,” with injured players Chase Hunter, Hemenway and Brevin Galloway back in the lineup. “Having said that, we need a break.”

UP NEXT

Miami goes home to play Duke on Monday night.

Clemson heads to North Carolina on Feb. 11.