Josh Hart (above) had 19 points as Villanova's season ended in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Villanova’s run at back-to-back national championships came to an end before the Wildcats could even get to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, as Wisconsin came from down seven points in the final six minutes to come away with a 65-62 upset over the top overall seed.
Though a Josh Hart bucket on Villanova’s first possession was enough to ensure the Wildcats wouldn’t come out as cold as the first round, when they missed their first eight shots against Mount St. Mary’s, it was Wisconsin who responded with a 9-0 run to take a lead it held for the remainder of the first half. The Wildcats struggled from the floor over the opening 20 minutes, shooting just 8-of-27 (.296) while Wisconsin was a nifty 13-of-24 (.542) overall. Almost all of the Villanova offense came via Josh Hart (10 points) and Donte Divincenzo (9 points), while the rest of the team went 2-for-16 from the floor.
Foul issues started to catch up with Wisconsin in the first few minutes of the second half. Senior Bronson Koenig picked up his third foul just out of the break, and was joined a few minutes later by redshirt sophomore Ethan Happ, who hit the bench with 15 minutes left after picking up his third. Koening’s fourth came with 14 minutes to play as Jalen Brunson drew a charge.
With Wisconsin’s two best players on the bench, Villanova took advantage, taking it to the rack over and over again. A Hart drive with 14:46 left brought the teams even for the first time since 3-3, and that was followed by layups from Kris Jenkins and then Brunson to give Villanova its first lead of the game.
A long 2-pointer followed by a straightaway 3-pointer from DiVincenzo put Villanova up 57-50 with 5:16 left, its largest lead of the afternoon. But Wisconsin responded with a 9-1 run, taking the lead back at 59-58 on a Happ bucket with 2:26 to play. After a huge 3-pointer from Koenig to put Wisconsin up 62-59 with two minutes left, Villanova tied it at 62 with 37 seconds to play on a single DiVincenzo layup.
On Wisconsin’s ensuing possession, senior Nigel Hayes’ reverse layup put Wisconsin up a bucket with 11.4 seconds left. Hart went for the tie, but couldn’t get an open look at the rim; Vitto Brown knocked down one foul shot, and Villanova couldn’t get a shot off at the buzzer.
Hart, Villanova’s standout senior and the 2017 Big East Player of the Year, was the catalyst yet again for the Wildcats. The 6-foot-5 wing out of Sidwell Friends (D.C.) finished with 19 points in his final game in a Villanova uniform. DiVincenzo was a spark off the bench for the second game in a row, following up on a 21-point, 13-rebound outing against Mount St. Mary’s with a 15-point, six-rebound effort.
Hayes led Wisconsin with 19 points, grabbing eight rebounds to tie for the team lead with Happ, who also added 12 points. They were two of four Badgers in double figures, along with Koenig (17) and Brown (10).
5: After taking a 57-50 lead with 5:31 left, Villanova managed just five points over the game’s closing stretch, getting outscored 15-5 during that span.
.182: The hero of last year's NCAA Tournament, Kris Jenkins had a rough two games in Buffalo. The 6-6 senior wing forward was just 4-for-22 from the floor (18.2 percent) and 0-for-8 from 3-point range, ending his career on a 16-game stretch where he shot under 25 percent from deep.
Villanova (32-4): N/A