Villanova was overwhelmingly better than Michigan and there was nothing they could do about it. The Wolverines failed to capture the program’s second national championship, falling to the Wildcats 79-62 in San Antonio.
Michigan put up a fight in the early going, led by Moritz Wagner’s nine points, but by halftime, Villanova did exactly what everyone outside of Ann Arbor expected them to do: dominate.
“We lost to an absolutely terrific team,” said Michigan head coach John Beilein. “I’ve been playing a long time and have played against some really good teams and they (Villanova) played like national champions.”
“This didn’t end the way we wanted it to end but when you look at the whole season, there’s so many highlights, that the sadness that we fill right now will go away once feel all the great things that we were able to accomplish.”
Unfortunately for the players in maize and blue, a great performance by a Wildcat point guard stole the show – and it wasn’t national player of the year Jalen Brunson.
Sophomore Donte DiVincenzo scored a game-high 31 points and he did not even start for Villanova. He was not a secret weapon for the Wildcats, DiVincenzo was just ready for the moment. DiVincenzo, who is called the Michael Jordan or Delaware, redshirted when he first arrived at Villanova, and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
“We guarded him pretty well and he just made shots,” said Beilein. “He’s a special talent. Here’s a kid that went to Villanova and redshirted a year. You say redshirt to a kid right now and it’s like, ‘well, how would like to have the Bubonic plague?’ He redshirted and here he is scoring 31 points in a national championship game. There is a process that young men have to go through in this maturation in this game and he’s done that.”
As for Michigan, their offense was left back at the hotel. As a team, they shot the ball 43.6 percent from the field and even worse from three, at 13 percent. Three Wolverines scored in double-digits, seniors Wagner (16 points) and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who led them with 23 points, and sophomore Zavier Simpson who had 10. They scored 62 points but could not hit enough three-pointers to keep up with Villanova, who made 10, compared to just three for Michigan.
“The game was clear as day,” said Michigan junior guard Charles Matthews. “It wasn’t like we lost on a last-second shot or somebody made an error. They clearly had much more better possessions than us.”
Michigan did not win the national title, but they were not expected to get there in the first place. They were not ranked coming into the season, no one expected them to beat rival Michigan State twice, or win the Big Ten Championship, or make the title game as a No. 3 seed. But they did, and they will walk away with their heads held high.
“I’m proud of this team,” said Wagner. “The way we fought, the way we competed, the way we’ve grown over the years, it’s something you don’t see all that often.”