No. 12 Virginia Falls Short Against No. 1 Nova, 61-59
Box Score Jan. 29, 2017
PHILADELPHIA (AP) No. 12 Virginia fell to No. 1 Villanova 61-59 Sunday afternoon on a buzzer-beater tip-in.
The Wildcats (20-2) played their worst half of the season before they found their 3-point groove that fueled a second-half rally. They had the ball with 11.5 seconds left and the game tied. Josh Hart drove the lane and missed his layup. Donte DiVincenzo zipped down the baseline and tipped the ball in with his outstretched right hand just as the horn sounded.
After a brief review, the basket stood and the Wildcats mobbed each other at center court. Virginia coach Tony Bennett watched stone faced, arms folded and in stunned disbelief.
Villanova was coming off a loss at Marquette and avoided its first-two game losing streak in four years.
Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges each scored 15 points for the Wildcats. Ty Jerome led Virginia (16-4) with 15 points in an ACC-Big East matchup that had a March Madness feel from the opening tip.
The Wildcats played nothing like the defending national champions for most of the first 30 minutes.
Josh Hart made his first basket of the game with 7:52 left on a 3-pointer that cut it 49-42. DiVincenzo came up with a steal and fed to Kris Jenkins who buried a 3 for his first bucket of the game that pulled the Wildcats within four.
Jenkins hit another 3 that gave Villanova an 11-0 run and sent the crowd of 20,907 into an absolute frenzy. Virginia let the Wildcats hang around and paid for it – Brunson stepped to the free throw line and sank both to make it 50-49 and give them first lead since it was 2-0.
The Wildcats were out of sync in easily their worst first half of the season and maybe the worst in the last five years. They missed 18 of 22 shots from the floor and nine of 10 3-pointers. Jenkins and Hart – the senior stalwarts that fueled the championship run – combined to miss all 13 shots from the floor and all eight 3s. The five Villanova starters made only three baskets. Hart even fired one off the side of the backboard.
Jerome made three 3s that stretched the lead to double digits and had the ”Hoos” drowning out the boos inside a packed Wells Fargo Center. Jenkins, who won the national championship with a buzzer-beating 3 against North Carolina, missed all seven shots (six 3s) in the Marquette loss. The Cavaliers shot 46 percent overall, yet could not stay out of foul trouble. The Wildcats made 13 of 14 free throws (Virginia was 3-for-3) that kept the halftime deficit to just 31-22.
THE BIG PICTURE
Virginia: The Cavaliers snapped a five-game winning streak and have never beat a top-ranked team on the road.
Villanova: The Wildcats might not stay at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 because of the loss at Marquette but won’t drop more than a spot or two. … Led by Jenkins and Hart, Villanova’s senior class has never lost two straight games.
The Cavaliers head home to play Virginia Tech on Wednesday.
The Wildcats play Wednesday at Providence. The Wildcats have a 46-18 career record against the Friars.