Villanova stifled by Wisconsin's 'great defensive play' on Josh Hart

Villanova stifled by Wisconsin's 'great defensive play' on Josh Hart

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- It was the final play of Josh Hart's career. The final time he touched the basketball in a Villanova uniform. The end of an era.

And it couldn't have gone worse.

After Wisconsin took a two-point lead on Nigel Hayes' layup with 12 seconds left, Villanova went to work on the potential equalizer in its NCAA Round of 32 meeting with the Badgers Saturday at KeyBank Center (see story).

The play broke down from the start.

"We wanted to get the ball to Jalen (Brunson) and go down to the half court and run a play," Hart said. "You know, they picked us up full court, and we couldn't get it to him. (Donte DiVincenzo) passed it to me, and we went into a ball screen. But Wisconsin made a heck of a defensive play."

As Hart dribbled across half court, he was picked up by 6-foot-8 forward Nigel Hayes. But Hayes was screened out of the play by Eric Paschall, leaving 6-foot-10 Ethan Happ on Villanova's national Player of the Year candidate with 6-foot-8 Vitto Brown to the left, also down in the paint.

"Nigel had him," Happ said. "Nigel picked up and they screened him, so we ended up switching it."

Hart, who would have had a clean look on a short jumper, briefly had a route to the rim, but it closed up quickly with Happ staying between Hart and the rim and Brown leaving Kris Jenkins in the left corner and dropping down low to help.

"I know he likes to go left and spin back, but he just stuck to his left hand the whole time," Happ said. "And then Vitto came over with great help and I walled him up and Vitto came over and got the almost tie-up but ended up blocking it."

Brown stuck his hand in as Hart went by with about six seconds left and the ball popped out.

Hart may have traveled even before he was tied up and lost the ball, but it wasn't called. 

Brown controlled the loose ball and was immediately fouled by DiVincenzo.

Villanova head coach Jay Wright said Hart did the right thing by driving to the basket instead of stopping for a short jumper.

"It's simple for us," Wright said. "If they let us get it to Jalen, we're going to run a play. If they don't, we're going to get it to Josh or Donte (DiVincenzo) and run a middle ball screen.

"Josh, down two, got all of the way to the rim, and that's what you want to do. You want to be aggressive going at the rim and try to score and get fouled. They made a great defensive play."

Brown said he and Happ were trying to be aggressive defensively in a game that was officiated very closely.

"The way some of the calls were going, we weren't sure if there would have been a foul in the end and so Ethan did a great job keeping his hands back and kind of taking the ambiguity out of so they wouldn't call that foul," he said.

"And then I figured he wasn't paying attention to me, so I kind of reached in there and had to hold it strong because DiVincenzo was coming strong to rip from me."

Brown made his first foul shot and missed the second with four seconds left to make it a 65-62 game.

DiVincenzo rebounded the miss, but Villanova was never able to get a potential game-tying shot off.

Villanova, which won a national title last year by making all the right plays in the final seconds, was eliminated this year because of its inability to make the right play in the final seconds.

Villanova entered Saturday's game 17-5 over the last four years in games decided by five or fewer points.

It's now 17-6 in five-point games, and incredibly, four of those six losses have come in tournament play -- to Seton Hall in the 2014 and 2015 Big East Tournaments, to North Carolina State in the 2015 NCAAs and Saturday to Wisconsin in the 2017 NCAA Tourney.

"They've made so many last second game-winning plays," Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said.

"Going through the film, you look at the tight games and down the stretch how many game-winning plays they've made. And predominantly it had been in (Hart or Brunson's) hands or those two guys were somehow involved.  

"Those two guys typically either have the ball in their hands or are somehow involved in trying to make a play for them.

"You've got to give credit where credit's due. Those two guys are two terrific players. I've watched -- what are they 32-4? -- so 35 games, going through quite a few of them and watching them go downhill on a lot of people and get the ball in the paint.

"I watched Brunson in high school, and know what type of guard he is. And Josh Hart is a terrific player, too. That's how they played all year. A lot of teams had a hard time keeping them out of the paint."

Former Villanova star Ryan Arcidiacono joining pro team in Italy

Former Villanova star Ryan Arcidiacono joining pro team in Italy

The modern-day Italian Stallion is headed to his homeland.

After playing last season with the Austin Spurs, San Antonio's G League affiliate, former Villanova star Ryan Arcidiacono is headed overseas to play for Juve Caserta in Italy's Lega Basket Serie A. The Neshaminy High School alum is currently playing for the Chicago Bulls' summer league team and will have an "NBA out" clause in his contract in the case that one of the 30 teams offers him a chance to return to the US.

In a statement, Juve Caserta president Raffaele Iavazzi said that it was his personal dream to bring Arcidiacono to Juventus and expects the 2015 national champ's court vision, leadership and determination to be key factors that will be building blocks for their organization. Juve Caserta won just 12 of its 30 games last season, finishing in 13th place among 16 teams, but was able to avoid relegation to Serie B.

With Villanova, Arcidiacono averaged 12.5 points, 4.2 assists and 39.4 percent from three-point range as a senior before becoming a pro. Last season, he played in 47 D-League games and averaged 6.5 points per game.

Villanova adds a top 2018 recruit in 6-foot-8 Cole Swider

Villanova adds a top 2018 recruit in 6-foot-8 Cole Swider

Villanova on Friday added another top recruit in 6-foot-8 Cole Swider, who will be a senior this upcoming school year at St. Andrew's in Barrington, Rhode Island.

Swider chose Villanova over Duke, Syracuse and Xavier.

ESPN ranks Swider, who is viewed as an elite shooter, as its No. 48 recruit in the 2018 class.

Swider joins a 2018 Villanova recruiting class that also includes Brandon Slater, a shooting guard from Paul VI in Fairfax, Virginia. Slater was ESPN's No. 42 recruit in the 2018 class.

The Wildcats lost a pair of key players this season in Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart, but help isn't too far away. Omari Spellman, who was ruled academically ineligible last season, will play for the Wildcats this season, and then next year they'll welcome Swider and Slater.