No. 2 Villanova not concerned with being No. 1 after dominant win over St. Joe's

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No. 2 Villanova not concerned with being No. 1 after dominant win over St. Joe's


VILLANOVA, Pa. — “We’re No.1.”

The chant rained down from the student section of the packed Pavilion in the closing minutes of Villanova’s dominating 88-57 win over archrival St. Joe’s Saturday (see Instant Replay).

With No. 1 Kentucky falling to No.11 UCLA Saturday afternoon, Villanova fans are hoping their team leapfrogs Kentucky for the No. 1 spot in the country.

The team? Not so much. 

“Thank God we’ve experienced that already,” head coach Jay Wright said. “It’s something to deal with. And last year, we really didn’t know what to do about it … I thought it affected us a little bit."

Last season, Villanova reached the top spot on Feb. 8. That ranking lasted a whole two weeks. 

“Hopefully, if it happens, we’ll be better,” Wright said. “If it doesn’t happen, we’ll be fine.

“If it happened, these seniors would know, we all would know, what it’s all about. 
“If it didn’t happen, they also know it’s not the biggest of a deal, because we did it, and we lost it.”

But to be in contention for the top spot, the Wildcats first had to deal with a slumping St. Joe’s team.

The Hawks “came out and they had a lot of energy,” as senior Kris Jenkins put it. The Hawks, led by the young backcourt duo of Shavar Newkirk and Lamarr Kimble, put up a fight against the reigning national champions, even taking a three-point lead with nine minutes to go in the first half. 

“We wanted to avoid the spurts,” St. Joe’s head coach Phil Martelli said. “We wanted to play the game in segments.”

After winning the opening segment, the Hawks couldn’t avoid giving up one of those game-killing spurts. 

Led by Josh Hart and Jenkins, Villanova went on a 20-4 run to close out the half. The Wildcats forced six turnovers in five minutes, while shooting 8 for 11 during that stretch, giving the Wildcats a 44-31 halftime advantage.

“Whenever we come out, we want to start the game playing Villanova basketball,” Jenkins said. “We want to set the tone, and they came out and they had a lot of energy, but we were able to wear them out over the course of 40 minutes.”

Hart finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists — recording the school’s first triple-double since 1986.
“He’s just so complete in every way … He’s the best competitor out there,” Wright said. “If he wasn’t on a team with Kris, he’s one of the best shooters, he’s one of the best finishers in the country, and he’s a great decision maker and he’s our best defensive player.

“The guy's so complete, I just believe he’ll be a great player at the next level … I think this guy is as complete a player as there is in the country.”

While the “segments” approach didn’t work in the Hawks’ favor, neither did the overall game plan. 

“The plan was to have them go over the top of us, not through us. Their numbers on two-point shooting coming in were extraordinary, not that their three-point shooting was poor,” Martelli said. 

The Hawks learned the hard way that the over-the-top approach doesn’t work. Villanova shot 47 percent from three (16 for 34), with Jenkins “deadly weapon” of a shot sinking a game-high four three-pointers. 

After the game, both Wright and Martelli admitted Villanova’s experience made the difference in those crucial eight minutes before the half. 

“Just having older guys makes a big difference in this game,” Wright said.  “I think their young guys are going to be really good."

The game was a tale of two teams quickly heading in different directions.

The loss is the fourth straight for St. Joe’s, following a 3-0 start to the season. 

“I hope that everybody is willing to self-examine,” Martelli said. “Anger doesn’t do it. Frustration doesn’t do it. You have to self-evaluate.

“The mindset is that you start with the man in the mirror and go from there.”

For Villanova, the win is their eighth straight to start the year. Is that good enough for the No. 1 spot in the nation?

“Whatever happens, happens,” Wright said. 

Villanova, Penn with polar opposite NCAA Tournament draws

Villanova, Penn with polar opposite NCAA Tournament draws

No surprises on the Main Line and well, the Quakers have quite the hill to climb to advance.

Villanova on Sunday night was awarded the 1-seed in the East Region and will face the winner of the LIU Brooklyn/Radford game Thursday in Pittsburgh. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:50 p.m. on TNT.

The Wildcats have been a top-two seed since 2014 and it's the second straight year they're a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova was the No. 1 overall seed in last year's tournament.

Penn was named the 16th seed in the Midwest Region and will face the No. 1-seeded Kansas Jayhawks on Thursday at 2 p.m. on TBS in Wichita, Kansas.

Steve Donahue has the Quakers back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007 in his third season as Penn's head coach.

The Quakers are 24-8 and this will be their 24th-ever appearance in the tournament.

'Nova survived a scare from Providence on Saturday night to win its second straight Big East title and its third in the past four years.

If the Wildcats beat LIU Brooklyn/Radford, they'll face the winner of the No. 8-seeded Virginia Tech and No. 9 seed Alabama. Purdue is the No. 2 seed in the East.

Also in the East are No. 3 Texas Tech and No. 4 Wichita State.

Penn aims to end 11-year drought this weekend

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Penn aims to end 11-year drought this weekend

NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor/reporter Amy Fadool and senior producer Sean Kane get you set for all the weekend's local college basketball games with Fastbreak Friday. With the regular season ending this weekend, this will be the final Fastbreak Friday column of the season.

Temple (16-13, 8-9 AAC) at Tulsa (18-11, 11-6 AAC), Sunday at 3 p.m.
 It’s been a rough season for the Temple Owls. Yes, there was that win over ranked Wichita State in the middle of a 5-game win streak. But after the stumbles down the stretch, that seems like a distant memory. 

Of course, the bad can be washed away with an AAC tournament run, but first, the Owls need to close out on the road against Tulsa. 

Given their track record on the road, things don’t line up well for Fran Dunphy’s crew. Plus, it’s dollar dog, dollar soda and dollar popcorn night at Tulsa. That’s a delicious trifecta. 

But there is still some fight in this team. Quintin Rose and Shizz Alston have been everything the Owls have needed, and throw in Nate Pierre-Louis and you have a nice core back for next season.

Temple 71,  Tulsa 70

Pennsylvania (21-7, 11-1 Ivy) at Yale (14-14, 7-5 Ivy), Friday at 7 p.m.
Pennsylvania (21-7, 11-1 Ivy) at Brown (11-14, 4-8 Ivy), Saturday at 6 p.m.
Penn enters the final weekend of the regular season in control of its own destiny. If the Quakers beat Yale and Brown on the road they'll win their first Ivy League championship since 2007 and earn the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, which will be played at the Palestra next weekend. It all adds up to Penn having the inside track to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 11 years.

This seems like an appropriate time to salute the job done by head coach Steve Donahue. In just his third season at Penn, he has the Quakers poised to reclaim top billing in the Ivy League. He inherited a team that finished 9-19 in the 2014-2015 season and promptly began a swift rebuilding project. Penn went 11-17 in Donahue's first season, 13-14 in his second year, and now stand at 21-7 overall and 11-1 in conference play. Look for those winning ways to continue this weekend and for Donahue and company to do some celebrating.

Penn 73, Yale 66
Penn 69, Brown 60

La Salle (13-17, 7-10 A-10) at St. Joseph's (14-15, 9-8 A-10), Saturday at 2 p.m.
La Salle and St. Joe's will each try to keep the good times rolling heading into next week's A-10 Tournament. La Salle has won three of its last four games, including a convincing 18-point win over Dayton earlier this week. St. Joseph's meanwhile has a 5-1 record in its last six games and just recorded arguably one of the most stunning victories of this college basketball season.

The Hawks went on the road and beat No. 18 Rhode Island, 78-48, on Tuesday, spoiling the Rams' senior night in the process. It was the first road win over a ranked team for St. Joseph's since 1979 and it came in shockingly easy fashion. I expect the Hawks to build on that momentum this weekend and avenge a three-point loss to La Salle earlier this season.

St. Joseph's 74, La Salle 68 

Drexel (12-19, 6-12 CAA) at James Madison (10-21, 6-12 CAA), Saturday at 4 p.m. in first round of CAA Tournament
The Dragons' season has been marked with highs and lows. While it may seem like a marginal improvement — with 12 wins to their credit compared to nine last season — they did double their conference win total. 

Also, Drexel beat the top two teams in the CAA this season as well as set an NCAA Division-I record for the largest comeback ever when they erased a 34-point deficit against Delaware. 

But the Dragons did have two separate losing streaks that would cause any coach to lose sleep, one of five straight and the other of four straight losses. 

Drexel begins the quest for its first-ever CAA tournament title against JMU, then Charleston awaits on basically home turf. Go ahead and make it a baker’s dozen, Dragons. 

Drexel 76, JMU 74

Prediction Records
Sean Kane: 30-11
Amy Fadool: 22-21