Villanova Wildcats

Villanova boosts No. 1 seed résumé as Wright ties career wins record

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Villanova boosts No. 1 seed résumé as Wright ties career wins record


Jay Wright found another fashionable tie at Villanova.

The GQ coach with a national title on his finely tailored resume hit another milestone that suits him on the sideline: Wright moved into a tie atop Villanova's career wins list with 413 in the fourth-ranked Wildcats' 97-73 victory over Georgetown on Saturday night.

Wright improved to 413-165 since he took the job in 2001 and has led the Wildcats to the 2009 Final Four and 2016 national championship. He matched Al Severance, who went 413-201 from 1936-1961. Wright can top Severance with a win in the Big East Tournament.

"The real thrill and the pride comes with just being the coach at Villanova," Wright said. "That's enough for me."

The Wildcats head to Madison Square Garden as the No. 2 seed after their run of four straight regular-season conference titles was ended by Xavier.

There's little worry on the Main Line that Villanova can't make a deep run in the postseason. The Wildcats (27-4, 14-4) beat Xavier twice this season and will surely be a No. 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

But losing their grip on the Big East title still stung the Wildcats.

"You definitely would love to win a championship. This is the time you look at it," Wright said. "I purposely didn't look at that (Xavier) game today. You would definitely rather win the championship. So you take from that, what did you learn?"

They learned how to punish the Hoyas wire-to-wire.

They used the Hoyas (15-14, 5-13) as little more than a tune-up in the finale and took a 15-point lead in the first half that was never seriously challenged. Mikal Bridges scored 24 points and Jalen Brunson solidified his player of the year candidacy with 16 points and seven assists.

Brunson and Bridges, two underclassmen likely playing their final home game, received a standing ovation from the crowd of 18,523.

Yes, the Wildcats had been upset at the Wells Fargo Center this season by St. John's, a team that was winless in the Big East, but the outcome seemed a mere formality against Patrick Ewing's Hoyas.

The Hoyas missed all nine 3-point attempts in the first half. Jesse Govan scored 30 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field and he went 10-for-10 from the free-throw line.

"They make you pay for every mistake that you make," Ewing said.

The second half served as a mere countdown toward Wright's ascension to a share of the top of the record book.

Wright led the Wildcats, who won the 1985 national title under his mentor Rollie Massimino, to their greatest run of success in program history. They've won at least 32 games each of the previous three seasons and he's led them to the NCAAs all but one year (2012) since 2005.

Wright, a Churchville, Pennsylvania native, played college basketball at Bucknell and started as an assistant at Rochester and Drexel. He spent five seasons at Villanova as Massimino's assistant, then followed him to UNLV for another two years before taking the head coaching job at Hofstra in 1994.

Hired in 2001 to replace Steve Lappas, Wright took the Wildcats to the top of every meaningful stat -- including an eight-week stint this year at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 poll.

"Coach wants us to be the best we can be," Bridges said.

Big Picture 
Georgetown: The Hoyas will have to win the Big East to earn an NCAA bid. They've lost four straight. ... The Hoyas played without F Marcus Derrickson (15.7 points, 8.1 rebounds) because of an injured right ankle.

Villanova: The Wildcats have to escape New York without any significant injuries to key players to have a shot at starting March Madness as one of the favorites to win it all. ... The Wildcats went 11-1 this year at the Wells Fargo Center, their one-year home while the on-campus Pavilion is renovated. "I miss the Pavilion, I'll be honest," Brunson said. ... Made all 13 free throws.

Kid Stuff
Ewing recalled the days when Brunson tagged along with dad Rick Brunson in the New York Knicks locker room in the late 1990s. Ewing's son used to babysit Brunson.

"He was about 4 or 5 and he never left my locker," Ewing said. "I wish back then I knew I'd be coaching. I'd have started recruiting him from back then."

Up Next
Georgetown: Plays St. John's at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Big East Tournament.

Villanova: The Wildcats play the winner of the No. 7-10 game at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at MSG.

Villanova has 1 big advantage in NCAA Tournament pressure cooker

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Villanova has 1 big advantage in NCAA Tournament pressure cooker

VILLANOVA, Pa. — There were many reasons why Villanova was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. And many more for why it's one of just two top seeds still standing.

The Wildcats do a lot of things well. They have depth, they can shoot from three, they defend, they are well-coached and they play hard. But perhaps their greatest attribute isn’t physical or psychological.

It’s experience. 

Of 'Nova’s core six, five were on the national championship team two seasons ago. Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Phil Booth played key roles on that squad. Donte DiVincenzo (injured) and Eric Paschall (transfer) were on the team but did not play. Having players that talented and that seasoned can’t be quantified. Not to mention a coaching staff still in tact from that title team. 

Between that run in 2015-16 and playing one of the toughest schedules in the country in a battle-tested Big East conference, there is nothing this group has not seen.

“Obviously the playing experience is most important but having coaches who have been in it," Villanova head coach Jay Wright said Monday. "Having guys like Donte, Eric, who were sitting out, be a part of that '16 run — that’s important, too. They learned a lot, they picked up a lot. To be able to share that experience with the young guys, I think that helps this team a lot.”

DiVincenzo agreed with his coach's sentiment.

“We’ve seen the biggest stage," the redshirt sophomore guard said. "Although myself and Eric were not playing, we were there and witnessed it and we know what it takes not only to win it but to get there.”

Next up for Villanova is the Sweet 16 and fifth-seeded West Virginia on Friday night in Boston. The Mountaineers begin guarding you in the parking lot. It is a 90-foot torture test of relentless pressure, end to end. A brutal matchup for any team.

But rest assured, Villanova will be prepared and won’t be overwhelmed. 

“No matter what the stage is, we don’t care," Bridges said. "You can put us anywhere, we’re going to play the same game. We tell the young guys, 'Don’t think of it as the Sweet 16, think of it as the next game.'"

It may be more than just the next game.

But the moment won’t be too big for this bunch that’s seen it all.

How Sweet it is — 'Nova crushes Alabama

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How Sweet it is — 'Nova crushes Alabama


PITTSBURGH — Mikal Bridges hit five 3s, scored 23 points and helped No. 1 seed Villanova put the field on notice that it's the team to beat with an 81-58 win over ninth-seeded Alabama on Saturday.

The Wildcats (32-4) are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since they won the 2016 national championship. Bridges, Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth -- and yes, The Big Ragu -- look every bit the favorite to make it two in three years.

Villanova plays Friday in Boston against the Marshall-West Virginia winner.

The sport is still buzzing from top-seeded Virginia's 20-point loss to 16th-seeded UMBC on Friday night.

Alabama (20-16) failed to make it two No. 1s KO'd in less than 24 hours.

After a tense first half in a round that has given the program fits, the Wildcats hit their first six 3s in the second and put on a thrashing up there among the most dominant under coach Jay Wright.

Bridges, who averaged 17.9 points and played his way into a likely NBA draft lottery pick, scored 1 point and missed all five shots in the first half. He found his groove once the second half tipped. Bridges scored the first 5 points of the half and then finished a thunderous alley-oop on a pass from Booth that made it 41-27 and sent the Wildcats wildly waving their arms in celebration headed into a timeout.

Bridges hit his first three 3s in succession to cap an 18-1 run and a Sweet 16 berth was in sight.

Brunson added a 3 to make it 56-31 and the rest of the half was simply a countdown to Boston. Villanova made 17 of 41 3s.

The Wildcats lost in the first weekend as a 1 or 2 seed in 2010, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Villanova got a brief scare that it might add `18 to the list against Alabama.

The Wildcats live-and-die by the 3-pointer -- they say, "shoot em' up and sleep in the streets" -- and when it's on, look out. The Wildcats are as dangerous as any team in the nation.

When it's off, well, that's how they're so upset-prone in March. They missed eight of their first 11 3s in the first half and Alabama briefly grabbed the lead.

Donte DiVincenzo steadied Villanova with three straight 3s that brought a gasp from the crowd and gave the Wildcats a 22-15 lead. He threw in a fastbreak layup off his own steal and hit his fifth 3 of the half to make it 32-27.

DiVincenzo -- the redheaded guard nicknamed "The Big Ragu" -- scored all 18 of his points in the half. Villanova attempted 20 3s (made seven) out of 27 shots.