Villanova Wildcats

No. 1 Villanova easily beats Jay Wright's former team

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No. 1 Villanova easily beats Jay Wright's former team

BOX SCORE 

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- As Jay Wright recalled, the proposal was made by Ed Manetta.

Essentially, the question was: Would the head coach of the Villanova Wildcats want to return to his Long Island roots by bringing his team to the Nassau Coliseum for a game?

It was an offer he could not pass up.

"I said, `Yeah, it's perfect.' And I said, `Could we play Hofstra?'" Wright said after No. 1 Villanova remained unbeaten with a 95-71 rout of the Pride on Friday night at the Nassau Coliseum.

Wright, now in his 17th season at Villanova, compiled a 122-85 record in seven seasons at Hofstra, and still retains ties to the Long Island school.

"Hofstra worked (its) schedule so we can play this game," said Wright, who repeatedly emphasized that he would not bring Villanova to play Hofstra just to satisfy his ego. "I wouldn't want Villanova people to ever think I would take this game -- Villanova is not my team. It's not my school. I just work for them. It's not my right to take them to a place I love. So it worked out for me and I'm thrilled we were able to do it."

What he saw on the court was also relatively pleasing to him. Mikal Bridges scored 20 points and was one of five players in double figures for Villanova (12-0).

Omari Spellman had 19 points in 31 minutes, Phil Booth finished with 17, Donte DiVincenzo had 16 and Jalen Brunson added 14 points.

The win marked the fifth time this season that Villanova has scored at least 90 points in a game. The Wildcats' season high for points scored is 113 on Nov. 14 against Nicholls State.

"I feel good. I feel like we can get a lot better. I think our guys understand that. This was a good win against a good team," Wright said. "We know we can get better and (the players) know we can get better."

Justin Wright-Foreman had 25 points for the Pride (7-5), who have lost two straight. Rokas Gustys added 11.

"We're disappointed," Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich said. "You can't make mistakes against this team."

The Wildcats led 52-31 at halftime after Booth drilled a buzzer-beating 3 from 25 feet.

Villanova made 18 of 35 shots in the half, including 8 of 18 from 3-point range.

"That one possession was way more valuable than any practice," Wright said. "Phil was the third option."

The Wildcats began the second half by knocking down 5 of 8 shots in the first 4:32 and three of the five field goals were 3s.

After Villanova pushed its lead to 69-43 on Bridges' layup, Hofstra scored the next seven points, highlighted by Hunter Sabety's putback dunk of a missed dunk by Wright-Foreman.

Later, Eli Pemberton followed Jalen Ray's missed 3 with a putback jam of his own to cut the deficit to 82-62. From that point, though, Villanova went on a 13-9 run to end the game.

"Hofstra is a tough team to play," Wright said. "Scrappy. Joe has a great way to prepare for you. They prepare. They know all of your cuts. They change up their defenses. You can't look good.

"I think that's why that team, when they get to their league, is going to have a chance to win it."

The Wildcats outscored Hofstra 43-40 in the second half, and finished the game having made 47.9 percent of its shots from the field (34 of 71) and 47.1 percent of its 3s (16 of 34).

"The way they shoot the ball," Wright-Foreman said in response to a question about what stood out about Villanova. "Overall, a great team."

Big Picture
Hofstra: The Pride's early season has been a study in momentum, both positive and negative. Hofstra won its first three games before dropping three straight. The Pride, then, won four in a row before losing their last two.

Villanova: Among the reasons the Wildcats have been a perennial NCAA Tournament team during the Jay Wright Era has been their success in early season, non-conference play. Villanova improved to 61-3 in non-conference play dating to the 2013-14 season.

Notable
Hofstra: The Pride fell to 0-5 all-time against the Wildcats. Friday night's game was the first between the programs since Dec. 27, 1997, when the Pride - then coached by Wright - dropped an 86-74 decision.

Villanova: Despite the game taking place 132 miles northeast of Philadelphia in Uniondale, Villanova was the home team.

Up Next
Hofstra: Begins Colonial Athletic Association play Saturday at William & Mary.

Villanova: Tips off Big East play Wednesday night at DePaul.

Villanova routs UConn behind strong defense

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Villanova routs UConn behind strong defense

BOX SCORE

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Top-ranked Villanova didn't shoot particularly well against UConn, but routed their former Big East rivals thanks to defense and rebounding.

Jalen Brunson scored 23 points and Donte DiVincenzo added 17 points off the bench to lead the Wildcats to an 81-61 win, completing their non-conference schedule at 13-0.

Jalen Adams scored 19 and Christian Vital had 15 for UConn (10-9), which has now lost five games this season by at least 20 points.

The Wildcats (18-1) hit just two of their first 13 shots, but still led 13-5 early after seven offensive boards and a pair of 3-pointers by DiVincenzo.

A jumper from Adams brought the Huskies within five points at 21-16, but that would be the last time UConn threatened.

"We weren't really too worried about it," DiVincenzo said. "We were just trying to get back on the defensive end and just get stops. I think after that we missed four or five straight, but we got back to the offensive glass every time."

Villanova scored 18 of the final 20 points before intermission and the rout was on. A lob from Brunson to Eric Paschell gave the Wildcats their first double-digit lead at 26-16. They headed to halftime up 39-18 and the sellout crowd serenaded the Huskies with a chorus of boos .

Another 3-pointer from DiVincenzo gave Villanova a 70-39 lead midway through the second half , and sent many of those same fans to the exits.

"When we separated, we got it going off our defense," said Villanova coach Jay Wright. "Jay (Brunson) got some steals, (Phil) Booth got some steals, kicked ahead to Jay. So, I think it was still our defensive rebounding."

Since the breakup of the old Big East, both teams have won national titles -- UConn in 2014 and Villanova in 2016. But the programs seem to be headed in opposite directions. The Wildcats are 147-18 since joining the new Big East and 50-5 since the start of the 2016-17season. UConn is 103-60 in the same span, but just 26-26 the last two seasons.

"We've just got to keep fighting," said UConn coach Kevin Ollie. "We can go down the list of what we need. I wish I had a 7-footer, 7-2 guy. I wish I had a premier, all athletes, all shooters. But at the end of the day, we got heart."

Big picture
Villanova: Villanova shot 41 percent, well below their season average of just under 52 percent. But they held the Huskies to 34 percent and outrebounded UConn 48-32, including 16-8 on the offensive end.

The Wildcats are 62-3 in regular-season non-conference games since 2013-14.

UConn: Terry Larrier, who had been averaging better than 15 points per game, took an elbow to the face this month against UCF and has been suffering headaches that caused him to miss Tuesday's loss at Memphis. He was diagnosed with a fracture to his sinus wall and wore a mask on Saturday, scoring six points in 34 minutes. Ollie said Larrier will undergo surgery this week and is expected to miss between a week and 10 days if all goes well.

All five fingers in
Brunson started the game 1 of 7 from the floor, before making eight of his last nine shots. Wright praised the All-American, for his maturity and leadership qualities, joking that he also keeps himself impeccable and "his mittens are nice and perfect." Brunson was quick to correct his coach, noting that he would never wear mittens and prefers gloves with fabric that allows him to use his phone.

But, "when it comes to basketball, I'm all in, all serious and all for the team."

Chasing history
Wright needs just 10 more wins to become Villanova's winningest coach. Alexander Severance had 413 wins between 1936 and 1961. Wright is now 404-162 with the Wildcats.

Up next
Villanova: The Wildcats return to Big East action on Tuesday, hosting Providence.

UConn. The Huskies return to campus on Thursday to host SMU.

Villanova still sitting pretty in the AP poll

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Villanova still sitting pretty in the AP poll

Villanova is getting pretty accustomed to this whole No. 1 thing.

For the fifth time in the last six weeks, head coach Jay Wright's Wildcats are No. 1 in the AP poll, receiving 63 of 65 first-place votes this time around. This week's spot on college basketball's top perch came after a successful week that saw the 'Cats smother then-No.10 Xavier, 89-65, on Wednesday evening at the Wells Fargo Center. The Musketeers fell to No. 11 after the defeat. Villanova followed that up by holding off a feisty St. John's squad, 78-71, at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.

The Wildcats sport this No. 1 ranking heading into their own rivalry week this week. They head to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to battle historic Big East rival Georgetown, led by first-year head coach and Hoya great Patrick Ewing. The Hoyas are 12-5 on the season, but just 2-4 in conference play. They most recently fell to No. 19 Seton Hall this past Saturday. After that, it's on to Connecticut for an old-school Big East matchup with the Huskies. The teams last met in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, a game UConn won on its way to the national championship. Villanova, though, holds a 33-31 all-time advantage.

As for the rest of this week's top five, Virginia moved up a spot to No. 2, Purdue jumped up to No. 3, Oklahoma shot up five spots to No. 4. and Duke crept up to No. 5.

Click here to view this week's top 25 poll in its entirety.