clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2018 NCAA Tournament game recap: Villanova rolls past Alabama to the Sweet 16, 81-58

Donte’s Inferno tipped things off, and then Mikal Bridges took over in the second half.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Alabama vs Villanova Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The phrase “Round of 32” will send shivers down many Villanova fans’ spines, but this year’s Villanova Wildcats weren’t rattled.

After a closely contested first half—in which the Wildcats led a defensive showdown by five—Villanova was able to get hot in the second half and pull away to win 81-58, advancing to its second Sweet 16 in three years.

“Our defense picked up, got us out in transition,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said of the second half play. “That kind of opened up the game, got us some open looks. We were much better obviously in transition than we were against their half court defense which were very good. We give them a lot of credit and we’re very happy to beat a very good team.”

There was a stalemate in the first half, as defense dominated the game and both teams weren’t able to get into a rhythm offensively.

The only exception was Donte DiVincenzo, who scored all 18 of his points in the first half alone, carrying the struggling Wildcats in the process.

Although the Wildcats barely trailed in the game, the Crimson Tide were always just a few baskets behind, staying within reach of the ‘Cats.

Villanova shot just 9-of-27 (33.3 percent) in the first half, including a 7-for-20 performance from deep. DiVincenzo accounted for almost all of the Wildcats’ baskets, making six in total to start the game (five from long range.)

“I just know that when I got it going—a couple shots were going down—they were loading to me; they were trying to deny me the ball,” DiVincenzo said. “I just tried to make the right play—shot or passes, I tried to make the right play.”

DiVincenzo helped Villanova take a 32-27 lead into halftime, and that would be the closest Alabama would get to catching up to Villanova for the rest of the game.

The Wildcats started the second half with an 18-1 run to spur ahead and take a commanding 50-28 lead. From there, the Crimson Tide would never recover and the Wildcats would pour it on, leaving very little doubt as Mikal Bridges and Co. put on a show.

Bridges came alive in the second half, scoring 22 of his 23 points over the final 20 minutes of the game.

“I just had to play aggressive, play tougher, and my teammates—they found me,” said Bridges, about his mindset after halftime. “It wasn’t any of my shots weren’t off, you know, taking it up full court and shooting it...My teammates, you know, they just found me.”

His play and part in helping ‘Nova build such a large lead grabbed the attention of Alabama head coach Avery Johnson, who used to coach in the NBA for the Dallas Mavericks and the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets.

“He probably plays like Iguodala a little bit with a better jump shot,” Johnson said of Bridges. “That type of long rangy type of a guy. Yeah, I would say somebody like that, but he just shoots it really good.”

Alabama couldn’t keep up and fell too far behind Villanova’s insurmountable lead. The Wildcats never seemed to slow down, as they pushed their lead to as high as 31 at one point in the game.

Aside from the play of Bridges and DiVincenzo, Jalen Brunson added 12 points and four assists. As a team, the Wildcats drained 17 three-pointers.

For Alabama, Collin Sexton was the only member of the Crimson Tide to eclipse double figures. The freshman phenom standout had 17 points off of 7-of-14 shooting.

“Collin Sexton is a player that you’re not just going to stop,” DiVincenzo said. “You got to make it difficult for him...They have a lot of good players around them. We had to make sure we were making it difficult for him and limiting the other guys’ opportunities.”

With the win, the Wildcats will face the winner of Sunday’s game between fifth-seeded West Virginia Mountaineers and the 13th seeded Marshall Thundering Herd in Boston for the Sweet 16. Those two teams will play Sunday, at 9:40 p.m. ET

Also, this is Villanova’s 32nd win of the season, marking the fourth season in a row in which the ‘Cats were able to get as many wins. This is the first time a Division I program had been able to pull off such a feat.

“It’s the consistency of very good players over four years that stayed in the program and each class, got better and better,” Wright said. “I don’t know exactly which group that was, but I guarantee you, there was some really good seniors, and then next year we had seniors that are really good—just guys continuing to get better and having very good players. You don’t do that without very good players. That have passed down their knowledge to the classes behind them.”