Villanova Wildcats

Will newfound stardom lure Donte DiVincenzo into NBA draft?

usa-donte-divincenzo.jpg
USA Today Images

Will newfound stardom lure Donte DiVincenzo into NBA draft?

Donte DiVincenzo's historic effort in Villanova's championship game win Monday night over Michigan thrust him into the national spotlight. The red-shirt sophomore scored a career-high 31 points on 10 of 15 shooting, putting him squarely on the radar of NBA executives.

Prior to Monday, DiVincenzo was viewed as a solid prospect for the 2019 NBA draft. Now, there's speculation he could leave Villanova for the NBA this year.

There are two schools of thought on what DiVincenzo could and should do. On one hand, his stock may never be higher. Why not capitalize on his newfound stardom and declare now? After all, he demonstrated the full arsenal Monday — athleticism, explosiveness, outside shooting, the ability to play point guard and terrific defensive play.

Then there's the other option, the one that I think will ultimately win out — come back to school for his junior season and be "the man" for the premier college program in the country. DiVincenzo averaged 13.4 points this season, but he could showcase himself even more as Villanova's primary scoring option next year and potentially play his way into being a lottery pick in 2019. Right now, he's a fringe first-round prospect. There's no guarantee he'll be selected in the first 30 picks and receive a guaranteed contract.

In addition to being a tremendous talent, DiVincenzo has also demonstrated patience during his time at Villanova. He endured a medical red-shirt as a freshman after breaking his foot early in the season, watching from the sidelines as his teammates won a national championship in 2016. Last two years, DiVincenzo was good enough to start for 98 percent of the teams in college basketball. But he accepted his role as the sixth man for Villanova, providing a spark off the bench that no other team in the country had at its disposal. He's been patient throughout his career, paying his dues along the way. That patience would serve him well if he, in fact, chooses to put off the NBA for one more year.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if DiVincenzo goes through the pre-draft process without hiring an agent, giving himself the option to return to school. But in the end, expect him to come back to Villanova to help the Wildcats take aim at a third national championship in four years.

Saddiq Bey's career-high 27 points help No. 23 Villanova hold off Penn

usa_saddiq_bey_max_martz_villanova_penn.jpg
USA Today Images/Bill Streicher

Saddiq Bey's career-high 27 points help No. 23 Villanova hold off Penn

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Saddiq Bey kept another surprise defeat at bay for Villanova, and again made the Wildcats the top contender for another city championship.

Bey scored a career-high 27 points and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl had 13 points and 12 rebounds to lead No. 23 Villanova to an 80-69 victory over Penn on Wednesday night.

The Wildcats (6-2) finally pulled away from the Quakers over the final two minutes to avoid a second straight loss to their Philadelphia basketball rivals. Justin Moore converted a three-point play to give Villanova the breathing room it needed to hold off pesky Penn (5-4).

"The reason those games are like that and always have been is because we all know each other," coach Jay Wright said.

Jordan Dingle and AJ Brodeur each scored 18 points for Penn. Moore finished with 17 for the Wildcats.

The Quakers pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Philly hoops history last season when they knocked off the national champion Wildcats 78-75 at the Palestra. The Wildcats had won a city-record 25 straight games against Big 5 rivals Temple, Saint Joseph's, La Salle and the Quakers. Penn would win the Big 5 title but not the Ivy League crown that could have sent it back to the NCAA Tournament.

The Quakers came out determined to prove they were no one-upset wonder. They forced the game into the paint and kept the Wildcats from relying on the 3 to put them away. Brodeur scored 12 points and the Quakers had the game tied at 30-all late in the first half.

Jermaine Samuels swayed the game toward Villanova on a monster block on Devon Goodman's fast-break attempt and Bey capitalized with a thunderous jam on the other end that brought the fans to their feet. The dunk gave Bey 23 points, one better than his career high set earlier this season against Army.

Much like last season, the Quakers weren't going away. Goodman buried a 3 and quickly dunked off his own steal to bring the 11½-point underdog Quakers within four midway through the second half. Dingle hit a 3 to make it a one-point game and suddenly the thought of another shocker was in full force on Villanova's campus. Penn students stormed the court, tossed streamers, hopped around at midcourt, and mobbed the players after last season's win at the Palestra.

Robinson-Earl is a freshman and had nothing to do with the defeat, and knew even less about the Big 5. But one big game against the Quakers -- hardly confused with the powerhouse programs the Wildcats beat in March -- changed his perspective on the rivalry's meaning.

"The coaches have told me, the players have told me, it's just so important," he said. "I don't know a lot of the history about it but I can see from the energy Coach gives about how important it is."

The fans inside the Pavilion were all but silenced when the Quakers made it 48-47. The Quakers kept driving inside to keep the deficit within single digits and Dingle got a rise out of the Penn bench on a two-handed dunk. Try as they might, the Quakers couldn't stop Bey and couldn't go on enough of a run to ever take the lead. Goodman hit Penn's seventh 3 to make it 68-64 with Bey on the bench with four fouls.

The Wildcats made only 4 of 10 3-pointers; Bey was 10 of 18 overall with six rebounds.

"I don't know if we were ready for the physicality he brought to the game," Brodeur said. "He scored a lot of points at the basket."

The Wildcats held Penn to only five points over the final 4 minutes to hang on for the tougher-than-necessary victory.

"Three minutes to go, I thought the plan was working," Penn coach Steve Donohue said. "We just kind of ran out of gas on the offensive end.

Big picture 

Penn: The Quakers have never won on Villanova's campus, falling to 0-12.

Villanova: The Wildcats have 26 Big 5 titles, second to Temple's 28. Villanova won five straight before the Quakers ended the run last season but the Wildcats seem poised to go hard after another city title this season. They are 2-0 this season.

Up next 

Penn: The Quakers have a long layoff until they host Widener on Dec. 21.

Villanova: The Wildcats play Sunday at Saint Joseph's in traditionally the biggest city hoops game of the season.

Justin Moore scores 25 points in No. 22 Villanova's win over La Salle

usa_justin_moore_christian_ray_villanova_lasalle.jpg
USA Today Images/Eric Hartline

Justin Moore scores 25 points in No. 22 Villanova's win over La Salle

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Coach Jay Wright has a talented but inexperienced team at Villanova this year, capable of being dangerous and maddening — sometimes in the same game.

Justin Moore had 25 points off the bench, Saddiq Bey scored 19 and the 22nd-ranked Wildcats survived a sloppy second half to beat La Salle 83-72 on Sunday night.

"We've had different guys who have come up big for us on different nights," Wright said. "It was Justin for us tonight."

Villanova (5-2) went on a 28-6 run midway through the first half to build a 48-28 cushion at halftime. The Explorers closed within 10 twice in the second half thanks to some pesky defense that held the Wildcats without a field goal for over seven minutes. Villanova also committed 12 turnovers in the second half, helping La Salle hang around.

"They made better adjustments than us at halftime," Wright said. "They played hard and we made mistakes that an inexperienced team makes. Juniors who haven't been go-to guys and sophomores who haven't been leaders. But they are learning."

Ed Croswell led La Salle (4-3) with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting and 10 rebounds. David Beatty had 12 points for the Explorers.

"I'm proud of the way that our guys battled," said La Salle coach Ashley Howard, who was an assistant to Wright from 2013-18, a span that included two national titles. "We battled, but the first half we let the game get away from us with turnovers and poor transition defense."

Moore scored 15 points in the first half to help Villanova build the lead. Bey and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl each had 10 rebounds.

"We have to learn how to come out and play hard for 40 minutes," Moore said. "We had a great first half, but we have to match that intensity in the second half."

Collin Gillespie contributed 14 points for the Wildcats, who have won seven in a row against their Philadelphia Big Five City Series rival and improved to 26-1 since 2012-13 against the four other Division I schools in the unique college basketball association. The only loss in that span for the Wildcats came on Dec. 11, 2018, to Pennsylvania.

Big picture 

La Salle: Coming off a tournament win at the Gulf Coast Showdown last week, the Explorers dropped a game against a Wildcats squad that has bedeviled them for almost 20 years. Still, they have enough talent to make noise in the Atlantic 10.

Villanova: The Wildcats could move up in the AP Top 25 thanks to a chaotic week for teams above them, but their second-half struggles showed they are hardly a complete team.

Up next 

LaSalle: At Philly rival Drexel on Saturday.

Villanova: Hosts Big Five rival Pennsylvania on Wednesday night.