NCAA

Shorthanded Villanova makes no excuses, dismantles DePaul for 6th straight win

Shorthanded Villanova makes no excuses, dismantles DePaul for 6th straight win

BOX SCORE

ROSEMONT, Ill. — Fatigue? Traveling blues? A short bench?

Second-ranked Villanova could’ve copped to any of those excuses after Monday night’s 75-62 win at DePaul, but why bother?

“Any road win in this league is a good win,” coach Jay Wright said. “We’ve watched this team all year. They don’t quit, they keep playing and tonight they did.

“It wasn’t always pretty.”

But, like he said, it still was a win.

The shorthanded Wildcats (25-2, 12-2 Big East) clamped down defensively in the first half to take a 39-18 lead to intermission and cruised home from there despite seven second-half turnovers and several scoreless stretches that allowed the host Blue Demons to chip away at a lead that crested at 27 points (see Instant Replay).

Even with just seven players — Darryl Reynolds missed a second straight game with a rib injury — the Wildcats refused to shrug off the occasional miscues.

“We just got sloppy,” Wright said. “We didn’t focus on details and [DePaul] kept playing hard. You’ve got to give them credit.”

Point guard Jalen Brunson earned some credit, too, after pacing the Wildcats’ early dominance.

The sophomore, playing in front of several fans who watched him play high school ball in Chicago’s northern suburbs, had 12 points, three assists, three steals and took a charge in the opening half, which included an 11-1 run that turned the game into a rout. 

“I really don’t think they’ve lost a step [at point guard],” DePaul coach Dave Leitao said of Brunson, referring to the graduation of Ryan Arcidiacono. “He opened up the book tonight in the first half and pretty much wrote what he wanted.”

Brunson said the homecoming took a backseat to getting another win.

“Every goal for me is to be a leader when I step on the court,” he said. “I just had to set a tone defensively. 

“Offense just came to me.”

He finished with 18 points and four assists while Josh Hart added 16 points and Mikal Bridges chipped in 15.

Kris Jenkins added 13 points and eight rebounds and joined Bridges and Brunson in playing at least 34 minutes.

The Wildcats also helped stymie the Blue Demons (8-18, 1-12) by locking down defensively and allowing just seven opening-half field goals. Two were three-point heaves to beat the shot clock.

“In those first 20 minutes, they methodically go about their business,” Leitao said. “Even with a short bench, they play really, really well together. 

“You’ve got to play on top of your game and that first half, we did anything but. We were frozen on offense.”

DePaul also coughed up the ball nine times — four on Villanova steals — to yield a dozen Wildcat points in the opening half. 

The Blue Demons found a smidgen of offensive punch in the second half but never threatened to get back into the game. Villanova turned the ball over seven times in the second half and ended the game with a 38-32 deficit on the glass, but the defending national champions didn’t waste time nitpicking.

“There was no fatigue,” Hart said. “We played a great first half.

“We’ve just got to get back to work tomorrow and keep working to be the best team we can be at the end of the year.”

The Wildcats finish the three-game road swing Saturday afternoon at Seton Hall.

Knicks will reportedly reach out to Jay Wright about coaching job

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Knicks will reportedly reach out to Jay Wright about coaching job

Fresh off a second national championship in three years, this was bound to happen. Jay Wright is a hot name. 

And according to the New York Daily News, the Knicks plan on reaching out to Wright about their vacant head coaching job. 

Just don’t expect Wright to be interested. 

The 56-year-old coach has been determined to build Villanova into a powerhouse since he took the head coaching gig way back in 2001 and he’s finally done that. On the surface, maybe some think that would be enough to make him want to take his coaching to the top league in the world. Not so fast. 

In a recent interview with The Athletic, Wright said pretty flatly that he’s staying at Villanova because he loves it there. 

“The NBA does intrigue me,” Wright said. “That challenge is appealing but it’s not worth giving up working with these guys. The whole thing is, to take a new challenge you have to give up what you have. I don’t want to give up what I have. Would I like to coach in the NBA? Yes. But I have to give this up in order to do that, and I don’t see that happening.”

In that interview, Wright talked about his time at Hofstra and quoted Jim Valvano, who once said, ‘Don’t mess with happy.’ That was true at Hofstra until the Villanova job came around, so maybe there’s a chance the Knicks could blow him away. It just doesn’t seem likely. 

The Knicks just fired head coach Jeff Hornacek after a 29-53 record in 2017. The Knicks haven’t had a winning record since 2012-13. 

The New York Daily News cites a source, who said the Knicks believe Wright would be a “perfect candidate for a rebuilding club.” The Knicks might be right, but don’t bet on them getting Wright. 

Jalen Brunson hires agent, declares for NBA draft

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Jalen Brunson hires agent, declares for NBA draft

Villanova is losing its second star player in two days. 

Guard Jalen Brunson has decided to hire an agent and enter the 2018 NBA Draft, he wrote in a letter to Nova Nation on ESPN. He will forego his senior season at Villanova after an incredible college career. 

This news comes a day after his teammate Mikal Bridges announced he will also head to the NBA draft.

“It is with great honor and privilege that I have called Villanova University my home for the past three years,” Brunson wrote in ESPN. “When I decided to commit to Coach Jay Wright and the basketball program, I was driven by three goals: getting my education, competing at the highest level and winning a national championship. While I pride myself on remaining disciplined and focused to achieve these goals, I have grown as a man and have established lifelong relationships with my teammates, classmates, members of the basketball staff, fellow student-athletes and the wonderful educators and administrators of this prestigious university.”

Brunson leaves Villanova as one of the greatest players in Wildcats history, helping lead Villanova to its second national championship in three years. 

The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 18.9 points, 4.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game this season. Brunson was named the Big East Player of the Year and was the Wooden Award and Naismith Award winner this season.