Villanova's bid to repeat as national champs ends after being 'stunned' by Wisconsin

Villanova's bid to repeat as national champs ends after being 'stunned' by Wisconsin

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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- They were up seven with five minutes to go and in those nightmarish final five minutes, everything that could go wrong went wrong.

The Villanova Wildcats committed bad turnovers. They missed shots. They didn't box out and allowed follow shots. They committed fouls.

Against some teams, against most teams, Villanova could have gotten away with the mistakes and moved on. Against a tough, veteran, talented Wisconsin team, it meant the end of Villanova's reign as national champions.

"They made a lot of plays down the stretch and we give them all the credit," Kris Jenkins said. "I don't think we did anything wrong, they just did everything right."

Wisconsin outscored Villanova, 15-5, over those final five minutes, turning a seven-point deficit into a 65-62 win and for the fourth straight year a berth in the Sweet 16 (see Instant Replay).

For Villanova, it was a shocking end to another phenomenal season.

"This one is more stunning to these guys and crushing," coach Jay Wright said. "Me included. Till the last second of that game, I thought we had a chance to win the game so I wasn't thinking about this or dealing with this. I don't think any of this were prepared for this. I think all of us are still stunned."

Villanova won 32 games this year and 129 games over the past four years, the 10th-most ever by a NCAA Division I program in a four-year span.

The Wildcats won the Big East regular-season title and the Big East Tournament. They weren't just ranked No. 1, they earned the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Then they drew a team that was just as talented, just as experienced and much deeper in the second round of the East Regional.

Wisconsin, ranked as high as seventh this year, is a 27-win team out of the Big Ten and really shouldn't have been an eight seed. But you play who you play, and in those last five minutes, Villanova simply was not the best team on the court.

"They're a heck of at team, they're really experienced, four starters who are seniors, Final Four experience," Villanova freshman Donte DiVincenzo said.

"Great teams make great plays. We executed, they went on a little run, and there were some little things we slipped up on. But credit to them. They're an amazing team and they executed well at the end.

"We slipped up. They never slipped up."

Villanova trailed by eight early but battled back and used a 24-13 run keyed by Josh Hart, Jalen Brunson and DiVincenzo to build that 57-50 lead.

Then disaster.

Nigel Hayes made a layup. Five-point game.

Hayes blocked Hart's shot. Brunson missed a three. Bronson Koenig made a three. Two-point game.

Hart made one of two foul shots and Ethan Happ made a layup.

Just like that Villanova's cushion was gone.

The game was tied at 62 when Hayes faked out Mikal Bridges and drove for a reverse layup with 11 seconds left.

Hart -- who else? -- drove the lane looking for the equalizer, but he was stripped by Vitto Brown. Brown got fouled, made one of two and that was it.

"You're going to make mistakes, and we've been very good this year responding to mistakes," Wright said.

"Down the stretch, we tried to find a way to respond to each bad play and we just didn't find a way to respond at the end. We didn't have that final response that Wisconsin did."

It's hard to imagine the No. 1 team in the country being unable to protect a seven-point lead in the final five minutes of a game.

But this team just wasn't quite as deep, talented or explosive as last year's national champs. That team knew how to finish an opponent off when it had them down.

"Definitely, any type of lead like that you should be able to finish it off," said Hart, who finished his brilliant career with 19 points.

"But you have to give them credit. They played well. They made some incredible shots at the end. It's an experienced team that's been to the Final 4. Just have to give them credit."

Villanova has now lost as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed four times to opponents seeded seventh or lower in the last eight years.

The Wildcats, who got a combined eight points from three of their starters, made just one basket in the final 5 1/2 minutes.

"This is what NCAA Tournament games come down to," Wright said. "Down the stretch, they made two great offensive plays, two great defensive stops, and that was the difference in the game.

"From 57-50 the game really got shortened. They had a couple of possessions where they got an offensive rebound. They had another possession where the shot clock went down to zero, and then there was a foul called at the shot clock, so they got a whole other possession. So there weren't that many possessions.

"I think that's what the game came down to. We had a couple empty possessions at the end, and they had two great possessions. That's what close games come down to.

"We've been on the other end of that a lot. And when another team steps up and makes those plays and two great players like Koenig and Hayes make those plays, you got to give them credit."

Villanova made just five of 16 threes, just one of five in the second half. They missed six foul shots, including three in the final 3 1/2 minutes.

DiVincenzo scored 15 off the bench and Brunson scored 11, all in the second half. But Bridges was scoreless and Jenkins shot 2 for 9 for just six points with no threes.

"I hate to lose so I take every loss tough," Hart said. "This one's the same. It sucks, but we've had a great four years here, something we can definitely hang our hats on.

"We're going to go off and we'll be successful and the guys who are coming back, now they know this feeling. I just told them, make sure you don't feel this feeling again."

Villanova to host Lafayette at Allentown's PPL Center

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Villanova to host Lafayette at Allentown's PPL Center

Villanova will be playing all of its home games away from campus this season as The Pavilion undergoes renovations.

And for one night in November, the Wildcats will call Allentown home.

The program announced Monday that the 'Cats will host Lafayette at Allentown's PPL Center on Friday, Nov 17. Game time and broadcast information will be released at a later date.

This will actually mark the second time the Wildcats host a game at PPL Center, home of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the Flyers' AHL minor-league affiliate. The 'Cats hosted Lehigh there in November 2014 and came away with a 77-66 victory in the first college basketball game ever played at the arena, which opened in September of that year.

With the renovations to soon-to-be-rechristened Finneran Pavilion underway, Jay Wright's team is expected to play the vast majority of its games this season at the Wells Fargo Center, its home away from home for the last several years. The Wildcats' full schedule and game location details are expected to be released sometime in September.

The 'Cats are coming off a 32-4 season that included Big East regular-season and conference tournament titles and the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament but also ended in bittersweet fashion with a second-round upset loss to Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament.

Lafayette is coming off the heels of an ugly 9-21 record that at one point included a nine-game losing streak from Jan. 11 to Feb. 5.

The Wildcats and Leopards met in last year's season opener at The Pavilion and the 'Cats promptly asserted dominance with an 88-44 victory.

Villanova's women's basketball team will also play at PPL Center on Nov. 17 as it will host Lehigh.

The Wildcats' women's team, which will play its home games this coming season on campus at Jake Nevin Fieldhouse, went 20-15 last season reached the semis of the WNIT before falling to Michigan.

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.