Jalen Brunson, the kid who never cracks and is so stoic he’s been compared to a robot, couldn’t hold back Monday night as confetti rained on him at the Alamodome.
The point guard from Lincolnshire led Stevenson to a state title in 2015, then helped Villanova win the national title as a complementary player in 2016. This season, as a junior, he won nearly every national player of the year award.
But as he held the national championship trophy after Villanova’s 79-62 victory against Michigan, his voice filled with emotion.
“This is what I want,” he said, patting the trophy. “This is what I got.”
Brunson played far from his best game, sitting on the bench for more than seven minutes in the second half after he was called for his fourth foul and finishing with nine points — 10 fewer than his average.
He didn’t mind.
“I can’t put this into words,” he said. “I love my brothers. I love my team. I love ’Nova nation. I love them. I love them to death.”
Brunson shot only 4 of 13. His 3-pointers rattled out of the hoop and some seemingly perfect jump shots clanged off the rim. But he still was the Wildcats’ obvious leader, even during his second-half bench stint.
As streamers fell from the rafters, Brunson found teammate Donte DiVincenzo, the unlikely most outstanding player winner. They grasped each other and held each other’s heads in their hands.
The Villanova fans in the crowd of more than 67,000 chanted “DiVincenzo” at the end of the game.
The sophomore who has come off the bench for all but 10 games this season poured in 31 points — the most in the championship game by a non-starter and the most by any player since Danny Manning scored the same in 1988 for Kansas.
“He works so hard to make himself the best every day,” Brunson said. “This is nothing surprising for us. It just shows you how much depth we have and how we don’t care who gets credit. If someone’s hot, feed him.”
DiVincenzo said he was “on the bench in a suit” during the championship game two years ago, redshirting with an injury. He stood up when Kris Jenkins won it at the buzzer, confident the shot was going in.
Before the national semifinal that season, DiVincenzo played the role of Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield in practice so well players credited him after the overwhelming victory.
“He works his butt off,” Brunson said.
“Sometimes in practice he just makes me look bad,” said Mikal Bridges, who scored 19 points against the Wolverines.
On a team full of stars and scoring options, DiVincenzo was at many times the only steady hand for Villanova. Averaging 13 points, he picked the perfect time to have the game of his life.
Even when Brunson’s fourth foul sent him to the bench with 10 minutes, 51 seconds remaining, DiVincenzo kept the Wildcats in control, shooting 10 of 15 with six 3-pointers.
“I just kept telling him, ‘Keep going, keep going,’ ” said Brunson, who now will decide whether to turn pro or return to Villanova for his senior season. “He knows how to play the game of basketball, how to be aggressive and get teammates shots.”
A second championship cemented Jay Wright’s legacy as one of the best coaches in the game. He held his fingers into a “V” as Villanova’s fight song played.
This was Villanova’s third title, including the “perfect game” upset against Georgetown in 1985 and 2016’s nail-biter.
Villanova (36-4) rolled over its opponent Monday with the largest margin of victory in a title national final since 2009, when North Carolina also won by 17 points, 89-72 against Michigan State. The Wildcats breezed through this tournament with an average victory margin of 17 points in six games.
Michigan’s 6-foot-11 forward Moe Wagner, always an emotional player, was called for an offensive foul and a technical with 15:24 remaining for his third foul. He scored 11 points in the first nine minutes but added only five more.
Charles Matthews, a St. Rita graduate, fouled out after scoring six points for Michigan (33-8). The Wolverines made 3 of 23 3-pointers and were outrebounded 38-27.
The loss keeps the Big Ten without a national championship since Michigan State in 2000, with seven teams falling in the final since then.
The top-seeded Wildcats built a 37-28 halftime lead after overcoming a quick seven-point deficit. After falling behind 21-14 and missing eight of their first nine 3-pointers, they went on a 23-7 run to end the first half.
DiVincenzo brought them back, entering the game with 17:38 left in the first half. His halftime stat line: 18 points in 18 minutes. The sophomore guard hit 7 of 10 shots, making three 3-pointers and slamming a dunk.
As Villanova players gathered on the stage set up at midcourt for their victory celebration, they kissed the trophy as Brunson held it.
“I really can’t put my head around it,” Wright said. “I never dreamt of this.”