‘Big Ragu’ DiVincenzo provides right sauce for Villanova against Alabama
Don’t let the red hair fool you: no Irish blood runs through Donte DiVincenzo’s veins.
But the Villanova redshirt sophomore still made the most of St. Patrick’s Day, playing a starring role in the Wildcats’ 81-58 victory over Alabama in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday at PPG Paints Arena.
DiVincenzo scored 18 points off the bench for the Wildcats (32-4), all in the first half. Villanova needed it at the time, with star point guard Jalen Brunson — the Big East Player of the Year — limited to 10 minutes in the first half due to foul trouble.
“The more attention that was brought to me, I just knew that I was going to have to make the right play,” DiVincenzo said. “The first half, the right play was go score. The second half, the right play was getting my teammates shots. They got going, and we just took off from there.”
Dubbed “The Big Ragu” by Fox broadcaster Gus Johnson — “I’m assuming because I’m an Italian with red hair,” he said — DiVincenzo scored more than half of Villanova’s first-half points. His 3-pointer with four seconds remaining gave the Wildcats a 32-27 lead.
“He gave us a lift on both ends of the floor,” Brunson said. “He was able make shots, he was able to make plays on defense as well. It was something that we enjoy to see.”
DiVincenzo averages 13 points per game for Villanova, part of a Wildcats offense that leads the NCAA in both points per game and tops analyst Ken Pomeroy’s offensive efficiency ranks. Villanova shoots 40.1 percent as a team from behind the arc.
Saturday, DiVincenzo provided the bulk of Villanova’s in the first half. While he was 6-of-10 from the field and 5-of-9 from 3-point range, his teammates were 3-of-17 and 2-of-9, respectively. The Wildcats caught fire in the second half, making their first six 3-point attempts and running away from Alabama (20-16).
“All of us are confident offensively, but the biggest thing is coach (Jay Wright) has confidence in us,” DiVincenzo said. “We don’t worry about missing shots and all. He stresses get the stop and get the rebound on the other end. If we’re doing that at a high rate, the green light is awesome for us.”
During Villanova’s run to the 2016 championship, DiVincenzo — redshirting at the time as a true freshman — emulated the opposing teams’ top scorer during practice, including Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield.
His role is larger now, but he appreciates the teammates who are doing what he used to.
“I didn’t realize how important it was until it was all over,” DiVincenzo said. “That’s what I’m telling some of the younger guys that have seen the same role as me freshman year. They’re playing, but they still have the same role of getting the older guys ready for games. I told them you might not think about it, but when it’s all said and done, you will have made a big impact.”