Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Villanova Rolls after a Slow Start; Big Run at Beginning of Second Half Sparks Defending Champion

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Villanova Rolls after a Slow Start; Big Run at Beginning of Second Half Sparks Defending Champion

Article excerpt

For 20 minutes, Villanova looked ordinary, vulnerable, maybe even a little scared. Then the Wildcats finished like champions.

Donte DiVincenzo scored 21 points and the NCAA Tournament's top seed shook off a shocking start and stumbled forward in the East region Thursday night with a 76-56 win over No. 16 seed Mount St. Mary's in Buffalo, N.Y.

Leading by just a point at halftime, the Wildcats (32-3) opened the second half with a 21-6 run and took their first step toward successfully defending their championship. Villanova is trying to be the first back-to-back champ since Florida in 2007, and the Wildcats will have to play better to do so.

"I'm not annoyed," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "I really am shocked, not how Mount St. Mary's played, but that we didn't start the game with energy. We don't have time to figure it out."

Since the NCAA went to seeding in 1985, No. 1 seeds are 130-0 against No. 16s. The historic upset remains elusive, but for a while it looked like it could happen in KeyBank Center.

Miles Wilson scored 22 points as the Mountaineers (20-16), who edged New Orleans in a First Four matchup on Tuesday, gave the defending champions all they could handle in the first half.

"I was thinking we could get the win," Mount St. Mary's Elijah Long said.

But the Big East champions, who entered this tourney with more wins than any past champion, regrouped at halftime and reserved a date with Wisconsin on Saturday. It wasn't easy. It's not supposed to be.

"They outplayed us," Wright said. "At the end, we had more size and some more talented players who made plays. They deserve a lot of credit."

Jalen Brunson scored 14 points for the Wildcats, who not only survived a tough test but a horrendous shooting day by senior Kris Jenkins. The hero of last year's NCAA title game, when his 3-pointer at the horn defeated North Carolina, missed his first 10 shots and finished just two of 13 from the floor.

"I'm not worried about him at all," Wright said.

Showing no fear against a team the was favored by 25 points, the Mountaineers jumped to a 10-2 lead. The Wildcats missed their first eight shots, committed two turnovers and had three shots blocked in the opening 5 minutes. …

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