Villanova Wildcats

Villanova basketball notes, quotes and tidbits: Donte DiVincenzo poised for bigger role

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Villanova basketball notes, quotes and tidbits: Donte DiVincenzo poised for bigger role

VILLANOVA, Pa. — For the first time since its 65-62 loss to No. 8 seed Wisconsin in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Villanova’s men’s basketball team took the court in front of a live audience.

The Wildcats and head coach Jay Wright held their annual Blue and White Scrimmage Saturday at Jake Nevin Field House in front of a crowd of about 1,000.

With the Pavilion undergoing a $60 million renovation project, Villanova will play a majority of its home games at the Wells Fargo Center this season.

During the course of the scrimmage, Wright held some intrasquad games and mixed in some drills, essentially an amplified version of a normal practice.

Wright, entering his 17th season on the Main Line, was mic'd up for the scrimmage and ultimately was pleased with the event. 

“(Saturday's) scrimmage was good for us and it was a really valuable experience,” Wright said. “We got to play some game situations in front of a crowd, which was our very first time this season with this group. Getting the game speed with the referees was good.”

DiVincenzo poised for huge season
If the 2017 NCAA Tournament was any indication of Donte DiVincenzo’s basketball future at Villanova, Wildcats fans have a lot to look forward to.

The then-redshirt freshman averaged a team-high 18 points against Mount St. Mary’s and Wisconsin. DiVincenzo showed a lot of composure and promise on the big stage. 

DiVincenzo said the end of the 2017 season was huge for his confidence and pushed him to be even better.

“Playing with three good seniors in Josh [Hart], Kris [Jenkins] and Darryl [Reynolds] last year was important,” DiVincenzo said. "They were pumping me up all year and when it came down to it, things started flowing for me. Losing early in the NCAA Tournament gave me so much more drive to work harder in the offseason especially after losing three great players.”

It was no different at the Blue and White scrimmage on Saturday. DiVincenzo showed great vision and great bounce off of the dribble in a strong showing.

While there were pauses in the scrimmage and drills filtered in between, DiVincenzo put together a solid performance. He hit four three-pointers and made three layups.

He also showed his strength in the paint on an and-one where he collided with redshirt sophomore forward Tim Delaney and was able to convert the floater.

DiVincenzo’s court vision stood out immediately. He was able to penetrate into the lane and kick the ball out to the perimeter for open looks from behind the arc on multiple occasions.

“A lot stands out to me about Donte,” junior guard Jalen Brunson said. “His work ethic has grown and he has become a tremendously better player. You guys saw his ability today and it is only going to get better. His playmaking ability stands out. He is not always looking to score and likes to get his teammates involved.”

After seeing success on the court that resulted in Big East All-Freshman team honors as well as the Big 5 Rookie of the Year, DiVincenzo didn’t get complacent in the offseason.

He focused on improving his shooting and ball handling. The guard from Wilmington, Delaware, spent a majority of his time in the weight room getting stronger.

“It is exciting to see Donte grow and continue to want to improve,” Wright said. “He finished strong last year and he did not relax in the offseason. He went to work and wanted to get better and you can see the improvement in everything he does — his ball handling, his shooting and his confidence level.”

'Nova’s versatility
Villanova showed its versatility Saturday, featuring a small-ball lineup and the ability to play big as well.

The Wildcats' guards are athletic and long, which can pose problems for opposing offenses. Brunson, freshman Collin Gillespie and redshirt junior Phil Booth are all 6-foot-3 and DiVincenzo is the tallest at 6-5.

“We are very versatile this year,” Brunson said. “We have guys that can drive and we have guys that can spot up. Everyone has a strength but we are working on all aspects of our game. All the hard work we have been putting in this summer will pay off when the season comes.”

The guards can spread the floor and are knock-down shooters as well. Gillespie, who connected on a couple of three-point attempts Saturday, looks to be a key contributor for Wright’s squad this season.

“I think our versatility is one of our strengths,” Wright said. “We have a number of guys that can play a number of different positions and are willing to do it. Mikal [Bridges], Eric [Paschall], Donte [DiVincenzo] and Jermaine [Samuels] are capable and willing to play one through four.”

Extra notes
• Freshman Omari Spellman, who missed last season because of an academic redshirt mandated by the NCAA, and Booth, who missed all but three games because of left knee inflammation, didn’t participate in the scrimmage. Wright said Spellman is dealing with a bone bruise and Booth is dealing with “annoying tendinitis” in his left knee.

• Wright was asked about the difference between entering this season and the 2016-2017 campaign when Villanova was fresh off a national championship.

 “I think we have been given a lot more freedom in terms of expectations and attention, which is kind of nice,” Wright said. “It was alright the other way, too. We are a lot more relaxed around here but I wouldn’t trade it for coming off a championship. I also think this team is different. It is a lot less experienced than we have had and I think we have a chance to be good by the end but we may not look as good early.”

• Freshman Jermaine Samuels hit the game-winning three-pointer in the final intrasquad scrimmage.

• DiVincenzo showed his defensive capabilities on a strip of Brunson, resulting in a layup on the fast break. He also blocked Brunson at the rim.

• Villanova opens its season Nov. 10 at the Wells Fargo Center against Columbia.

Villanova defense forces 6 turnovers, scores in rout of Maine

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Villanova defense forces 6 turnovers, scores in rout of Maine

BOX SCORE

VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Freshman Jaquan Amos returned a fumble 99 yards for a score and the Villanova defense forced six turnovers in a 31-0 victory over Maine on Saturday.

Amos's TD was the third 99-yard fumble return in FCS history and the first since 2006. Keeling Hunter forced Maine's Drew Belcher to fumble on the Villanova 3, Amos picked it up on the 1 and ran untouched for the score.

The Wildcats (4-2, 2-1 Colonial Athletic Association) scored on their opening drive, a 20-yard pass from Jack Schetelich to Todd Summers, and led 21-0 at halftime after the defense forced three turnovers. Schetelich, 3 of 8 for 61 yards passing with an interception, scored on a 12-yard run in the third quarter.

Hunter, Malik Reaves, Trey Johnson and Rasaan Stewart picked off passes for Villanova.

The Black Bears (1-3, 0-3), who outgained the Wildcats 165-69 in the first half, were held to eight yards rushing overall by the conference's leading defense. The Villanova defense held CAA rushing leader Josh Mack to 22 yards on 18 carries.

Chris Ferguson, 15 of 24 for 138 yards passing, threw three interceptions, and Max Staver, 8 of 17 for 73, threw another.

Villanova to use lottery system for tickets to Nov. 29 game vs. Penn

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Villanova to use lottery system for tickets to Nov. 29 game vs. Penn

Villanova will use a lottery system to decide who gets to attend its Nov. 29 game against Penn, giving priority to current Villanova students, men’s basketball alumni, and family members of the 2017-18 team.

The reason for this lottery is the game will be held at the Jake Nevin Field House, which has a current seating capacity of just 2,200. The venue opened in 1931 and hasn’t hosted a regular season men’s basketball game since 1986.

Comparatively, the Finneran Pavilion, which has been the Wildcats' on-campus arena since Feb. 1, 1986, has a seating capacity of 6,500. It is currently undergoing a renovation and will be unavailable for the 2017-18 campaign.

The Wildcats will look to rebound from last year’s surprising second-round NCAA Tournament loss to Wisconsin when they open their season against Columbia at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday, Nov. 10.