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Donte DiVincenzo's one-man barrage nets Villanova its second title in three years

SAN ANTONIO — Chest puffed and fists clenched, Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo stomped across the Alamodome floor in the midst of his flurry of first-half offense.

He had the swaggering bravado of a man who couldn’t be stopped, and no one clad in maize and blue could argue otherwise.

Michigan’s smothering defense had been clogging the lane yet closing down the 3-point arc for the first eight minutes of Monday’s national title game until DiVincenzo caught fire and abruptly flipped momentum. Over the rest of the first half, the redshirt sophomore unleashed a stunning flurry of driving layups, backdoor dunks and impossibly deep 3-pointers, helping Villanova transform an early seven-point deficit into a nine-point halftime lead.

Never did Michigan recover from DiVincenzo’s 18-point first-half barrage. Villanova doubled its lead in the opening six minutes of the second half and coasted to its second national championship of the past three years with a 79-62 victory.

DiVincenzo finished with 31 points, one more than his previous career high of 30 set against Butler earlier this season. The only time Michigan mounted even the slightest second-half surge, DiVincenzo answered with back-to-back 3-pointers, drawing chest bumps and high fives from his teammates and a “Di-Vin-cen-zo” chant from the Villanova fans behind the Wildcats bench.

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DiVincenzo’s masterpiece of a title game carried Villanova to a victory that will serve as the climactic moment in a five-year run of excellence nearly unmatched in recent college basketball history. The Wildcats are 165-21 since the start of the 2013-14 season, a stretch that includes a pair of national championships and a combined seven Big East regular season or tournament titles.

The most impressive aspect of Villanova’s latest title run was the ease with which the Wildcats laid waste to their opponents. Villanova became the first national champion since North Carolina nine years ago to win all six of its NCAA tournament games by double figures, a run that will forever enhance the legacies of those who helped achieve it.

Jay Wright boosted his credentials for the Naismith Hall of Fame and put himself in elite company. The only other two active Division I college basketball coaches with multiple championships are Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (5) and North Carolina’s Roy Williams (3).

Jalen Brunson capped a national player of the year season in ideal fashion and elevated his status among Villanova’s all-time greats. He, Mikal Bridges and Phil Booth are the only three Wildcats to play integral roles on both the 2016 and 2018 national championship teams.

And DiVincenzo etched his name into NCAA tournament lore with one of the finest performances in national title game history, one that will go alongside Kris Jenkins’ 2016 game-winning 3-pointer against North Carolina as the greatest in Villanova history.

While DiVincenzo has been overshadowed by national player of the year Jalen Brunson and future lottery pick Mikal Bridges this season, this performance was hardly out of nowhere. This is a kid who earned the nickname the Michael Jordan of Delaware in high school and who teammates said was as tough to guard as Buddy Hield when he imitated the Oklahoma star on the scout team two years ago.

DiVincenzo has served as Villanova’s sixth man this season, averaging 13 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists. While he has produced big games before, he has never done it on a bigger stage or against a better defense.

At the end of Monday’s game, Villanova players mobbed DiVincenzo and he threw the ball high in the air. It was a well-deserved celebration for the hero of the Wildcats’ latest title run.

Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo (10) goes up for a shot over Michigan’s Charles Matthews (1) during the second half in the championship game of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Monday, April 2, 2018, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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Jeff Eisenberg is a college basketball writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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