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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- After coming off the bench to pull down a career-high 13 rebounds against Mount St. Mary, Donte DiVincenzo was asked what's the most rebounds he ever had in high school.
He just laughed.
DiVincenzo, as he has much of the season, kick-started Villanova into gear Thursday night, with 21 points and 13 rebounds off the bench as the Wildcats overcame a sluggish start to advance in the NCAA Tournament with a 76-56 win over the Mountaineers.
The 13 rebounds are the most by a guard off the bench in an NCAA tourney game in at least eight years -- as far back as the Sports-Reference database goes.
DiVincenzo is the first Wildcat with 21 or more points and 13 or more rebounds in a game since Taj Bell in a Big 5 game against St. Joe's in 2013.
And he's a freshman guard who doesn't start.
When Josh Hart was in foul trouble and Kris Jenkins was missing his first eight shots and the Wildcats looked like they were in serious trouble, DiVincenzo gave the Wildcats a jolt of life off the bench.
He shot 9 for 15 from the field and made three of four threes, including all three in the second half, when Villanova turned a one-point deficit into a 24-point lead.
So here's the funny thing about those 13 rebounds.
DiVincenzo has never been a rebounder.
“In high school, I think my highest was maybe six or seven," he said. "In high school, I didn’t play that much defense. I was mainly an offensive player. I couldn’t, because if I got in foul trouble I was kind of the main person.
"But as soon as I got here, they just stressed defense and rebounding. We have eight scorers on our team so it doesn’t matter who’s getting points. As long as I play defense and rebound I’ll be fine."
DiVincenzo has done a lot of things this year. He's scoring 8.7 points per game with 3.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 0.9 steals, numbers that don't really capture his value to the Wildcats.
"One of our best defensive players, one of our best rebounders, one of our best scorers and probably our best passer," Jay Wright said after the Wildcats' advanced.
DiVincenzo's previous career rebounding high was eight. That was gone by early in the second half.
“I take pride in that because that’s what we stress in our program," he said. "To be a Villanova basketball player, you’ve got to defend and rebound and if I’m out there defending and I’m getting boards, it doesn’t matter to any of us who scores and who gets the numbers. It doesn’t matter to any of us."
Wright said becoming a rebounder was a natural evolution in DiVincenzo's game once he arrived at Villanova.
“He played on a team (in high school) where he was a flat-out scorer and he couldn’t foul because they had to keep him in the game," Wright said.
"Now he comes in and we say, 'Let’s be everything. You can do everything because here if you get a couple fouls it’s OK.' And he’s just taken it all on, taken the whole challenge."
Through 23 games, DiVincenzo was averaging 3.0 rebounds per game.
The last 12, he's at 5.2 boards per game.
“Really proud of Donte," Wright said. "And he’s done that a lot for us this year. Pretty cool he did it on the big stage and he did it on a high level. He finished with 21 … (missed) two dunks, would have given him 25.
"He’s a humble kid. He’s going to get a lot better. We’re really excited about him. We struggled with their quickness, and he guarded everybody and did a really good job."
Wright said he started to see last year at practice what kind of rebounder the athletic DiVIncenzo could be.
“That’s what he showed first and then he got hurt, so we didn’t see it for a long time," he said. "But at the end of the season when he could practice, we started to see this guy could be good.
“He didn’t really play much defense in high school, either. It’s really a credit to him and his toughness that he came in here and took on that role right away.”
DiVincenzo actually played in eight games early last year, averaging about eight minutes as a true freshman for the eventual national champs before breaking his foot and taking a redshirt year.
This year, he's blossomed into a uniquely versatile force for the nation's top-ranked team.
Villanova, 32-3, faces Wisconsin at 2:40 p.m. Saturday at the KeyBank center for a berth in the Sweet 16.
“Rebounding I have the most pride in," DiVincenzo said at his locker Thursday night. "I kind of get more enjoyment of being able to rebound and kick it up the floor and seeing one of the guys get a fast-break layup or posting their guy up and scoring."
And how does a kid who's never been a rebounder suddenly become a very good one as a college freshman?
“Just getting beat up every day as a freshman last year by Josh Hart, Ryan (Arcidiacono), Jalen (Brunson), Eric (Paschall) -- everybody," he said.
"Just going after the glass every single day in practice makes you have to get better at it."