By MIKE McCURRY PHILADELPHIA—From Monday thru Saturday, the AP Poll’s Top-11 teams posted a combined 10-10 record. So it only would have been fitting if college basketball’s most chaotic week of the season culminated in No. 12 Virginia downing No. 1 Villanova at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday. The defending national champions had their backs up against the wall, trailing by as many as 13 in the second half, before usual suspects Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins came alive. The Wildcats (20-2) outscored Virginia (16-4) by a 24-10 margin over the final 9:42, with a Donte DiVincenzo tip-in as time expired providing the difference in a 61-59 Villanova victory.
This team just loves hitting buzzer-beaters against ACC foes, huh? Villanova narrowly avoided a two-game losing streak—Marquette ended Tuesday’s affair on a 19-4 run to shock the Wildcats—while Virginia fell to 1-29 all-time versus top-ranked opponents. In the first edition of Take Five on ZAGSBLOG, here are five thoughts from Sunday’s thriller, which had a late-round NCAA Tournament feel to it.— #BIGEASThoops (@BIGEASTMBB) January 29, 2017
- Mikal Bridges was the best player on the floor.
- Kris Jenkins rediscovered his stroke at the most opportune time for Villanova.
Moments later, Jenkins flared out to the top of the key on an inbounds play, nailing another triple.
Big Smoove has arrived!No.1 @NovaMBB cuts Virginia's lead to 4 with under 7 to go. #UVAvsNOVA https://t.co/QtqkOx9vpy — FOX Sports (@FOXSports) January 29, 2017
His personal 6-0 run cut Virginia’s lead to one, bringing the vast majority of the 20,907 fans—the largest crowd Wells Fargo Center has ever hosted for a college game—to its feet. Cavaliers’ head coach Tony Bennett knew it was only a matter of time before Jenkins (and Hart) got cooking, though Bennett thinks part of the seniors’ resurgence was self-inflicted. “We kind of let them get going when we had some turnovers that led to some transition buckets, and then they got to the line,” Bennett said. Indeed, Villanova scored 11 points on Virginia’s 6 second-half turnovers while outscoring UVA 8-0 in transition during the latter frame. The Wildcats also benefited from converting on 20 free-throws, which not only matched a season-high but were 17 more than Virginia made (3-3).
BIG SMOOVE! KRIS JENKINS!No.1 @NovaMBB makes it a 1 point game. #UVAvsNOVA https://t.co/DN9nNASYt3 — FOX Sports (@FOXSports) January 29, 2017
- Virginia needs to be recognized as a legitimate national title contender.
- Ty Jerome had his national coming out party.
“He’s a gamer,” Bennett said of Jerome. “He doesn’t wow you with his athleticism—good size, good feel, got off to a great start knocking down those threes.” The emergence of Jerome, who did score 8 key points in 14 minutes on Tuesday at Notre Dame, should provide a welcoming breather to Perrantes, who can now play off-ball at times. Aside from Jerome, Marial Shayok (14 points) and Isaiah Wilkins (12 points, 8 rebounds on 6-of-6 shooting) were offensive bright spots for the Cavaliers.
TY GAME! TY JEROME!No.12 @UVAMensHoops & No.1 @NovaMBB tied at 59, 11.5 to go! #UVAvsNOVA https://t.co/6wxacOCD66 — FOX Sports (@FOXSports) January 29, 2017
- We need more non-conference games like Virginia-Villanova this time of year.