Villanova beats Virginia on DiVincenzo's tip-in at buzzer

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Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo (center) celebrates his last-second tap-in to beat Virginia with teammates Eric Paschall and Darryl Reynolds.

When Villanova ended the first half of Sunday's game against Virginia shooting 4 of 22, and with Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins going a combined 0 for 13, the feeling that this would not be the Wildcats' day went through many in the record crowd at the Wells Fargo Center.

But Hart and Jenkins never stopped playing, taking a major role in the Cats' rally from a 13-point deficit. And when Hart was called upon the make the winning shot but couldn't finish as the clock ran down, Donte DiVincenzo was there to pick him up.

DiVincenzo, a redshirt freshman who hadn't taken a shot all day, tipped in Hart's miss at the buzzer that, after a review by the officials, gave top-ranked 'Nova a 61-59 victory over the 12th-ranked Cavaliers in a contest that had 20,907 screaming people on the edge of their seats.

"First half, I was frustrated, but I can't focus on just scoring," said Hart, who scored 12 points. "I've got to focus on different things, especially when you're playing a great defensive team like Virginia that's trying to stop you. It's a growing experience for me.

"I can't worry about making shots. This is a prime example. Not making shots, playing a great opponent, game comes down to the last possession, we just make a great play. So you just can't focus on making and missing shots."

The Cavaliers (16-4) led by 45-32 with 13 minutes, 46 seconds to play, and were up 12 with 9:58 left before Villanova (20-2) went on a 13-0 run to take its first lead since 2-0.

Hart sank his first field goal of the game, a three-pointer, early in the rally. Jenkins followed Hart with a trey, and hit another 29 seconds later. The rally ended with Jalen Brunson's two free throws, giving the Cats a 50-49 advantage with 5:32 left.

Villanova coach Jay Wright said the Cavaliers forced Hart and Jenkins to "make plays for other people," but was proud of the way they didn't let their shooting affect their overall game.

"If you go after two great players like that and they can't get their points, a lot of times they slip defensively and their leadership slips," Wright said. "Those two just brought their leadership to another level, their defense to another level."

Jenkins, who went 0 for 7 and 0 for 6 from three-point range in Tuesday night's loss to Marquette, started 0 for 8 and 0 for 6 in Sunday's first half. He took just two shots in the second half, swishing both, and finished with eight points.

After making four shots in the first half, the Wildcats missed just five in the second, shooting 72.2 percent (13 of 18) and drilling all six of their three-point tries after a 1 for 10 start. Brunson and Mikal Bridges each scored 15 points.

Villanova also held a significant advantage on free throws, outscoring the Cavaliers 20-3 at the line and being whistled for eight fouls, 10 fewer than the visitors.

The score was tied at 55, 57, and 59, with Brunson scoring on a circular drive to the hoop, and Virginia's Ty Jerome (15 points) hitting a driving scoop shot to get their teams to 59.

After a timeout with 11.5 seconds left, Hart took a pass on the right wing and headed toward the basket. His layup attempt missed but DiVincenzo was in the right spot - and definitely in the nick of time.

"Josh made a great play," DiVincenzo said. "He saw the lane open and the defense turned their head. There were only a couple of seconds left. If I didn't get it, we were going to overtime . . . but luckily I got a last-second tip-in."

Hart watched DiVincenzo while down on the court.

"I thought it was Mikal that tipped it in at first and then I saw everyone running to Tay, and I started running to Tay, too," Hart said. "I was so happy."

With the win, the senior class of Hart, Jenkins, and Darryl Reynolds still never has lost back-to-back games in their careers.

jjuliano@phillynews.com

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