Rushed Reactions: #1 Villanova 81, #9 Alabama 58

Posted by Walker Carey on March 17th, 2018

RTC will be providing coverage of the NCAA Tournament from start to finish. Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) is in Pittsburgh this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways.

Villanova Ran Through Alabama Like a Freight Train This Afternoon (USA Today Images)

  1. Donte DiVincenzo was the story of the first half. Villanova’s first half did not go as planned. Both Jalen Brunson and Omari Spellman spent more than 10 minutes of the opening stanza relegated to the bench because of foul trouble. Star swingman Mikal Bridges struggled to get anything going in the first 20 minutes, totaling just a single point on an 0-for-5 shooting performance. But amazingly, the Wildcats still held a five-point halftime lead. That advantage was largely because of an incredible first half performance from sophomore guard Donte DiVincenzo. The versatile wing tallied 18 of Villanova’s 32 first half points and did so on an impressive 6-of-10 (5-of-9 3FG) shooting performance. DiVincenzo is the Wildcats’ top reserve who often plays starter minutes, so today’s performance did not come completely out of nowhere, but today’s game could have had a much different result if DiVincenzo had not been so brilliant in the early going.
  2. Mikal Bridges was the story of the second half. Bridges certainly struggled in the first 20 minutes of the game. The junior forward could not get any of his shot attempts to fall and it appeared like he was having trouble getting acclimated to the Alabama defense. That all changed very quickly when the second half commenced. The Wildcats ripped off an 18-1 run to open the stanza, with Bridges scoring 16 of those 18 points. He was effective in utilizing his athleticism to get open and he was burying jumpers over the oncoming Alabama defenders with remarkable ease. All in all, Bridges finished the second half with 22 points on 7-of-9 shooting. It was an incredible performance after what was a forgettable first half, and it propelled Villanova easily into the Sweet Sixteen.
  3. Villanova will not lose if it plays like it did in the second half. Considering what happened in Charlotte last night with Virginia and UMBC, it is difficult to make any surefire predictions about this tournament. However, it is pretty safe to say Villanova will not fall victim to the upset bug if it turns in four more performances like this afternoon’s second half effort. The Wildcats were sharp defensively, holding Alabama to just 36 percent shooting in the final 20 minutes, and they were probably better offensively. The ball moved incredibly well, leading to a number of open looks that Villanova buried with ease while building its insurmountable lead. It was truly a fantastic performance. It will be interesting to see if it will carry over to Boston next weekend.

Player of the Game. Mikal Bridges, Villanova. While DiViencenzo kept Villanova in the driver’s seat in the first half, it was the Bridges-led second half onslaught that ferociously put the game out of Alabama’s reach. Bridges is such a unique player in that he creates a mismatch every trip down the court. That was on display throughout the second half and it is fair to assume that will continue to be the case as the Wildcats move through the bracket next weekend and perhaps beyond.

Quotable.

  • “Really good game for us. We played well.” – Villanova coach Jay Wright, expressing his thoughts on his team’s performance.
  • “When I came in, my job was supposed to defend and rebound. I found myself getting hot with my shot though, so I kept it going.” – Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo, describing how he was able to make such an impact in the first half.
  • “Right now, I am worried about my team, celebrating the season with my team, and finishing up school with a 4.0.” – Alabama guard Collin Sexton, declining to give a concrete answer regarding his future plans.

Sights and Sounds. There was not a whole lot of energy in the building this afternoon. That may have had to do with a good portion of the crowd wearing Rhode Island or Duke apparel in preparation for the pod’s second game. It could have also had something to do with the streets littered with people getting an early start on their St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

What’s Next. Villanova advances to the Sweet Sixteen where it will player the winner of West Virginia vs. Marshall on Friday night in Boston.

WCarey (279 Posts)


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