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Villanova NCAA Tournament Notes: Wright's fashion faceoff with Huggins

Villanova NCAA Tournament Notes: Wright's fashion faceoff with Huggins

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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- It's the NCAA Tournament, so a little smack talk is in order.
 
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins started things off Wednesday during his press conference at KeyBank Center, taking aim at Villanova coach Jay Wright.
 
"I keep telling him, if I'd lose a little bit of weight, he'd be the second-best looking coach out there," Huggins said.
 
OK, so maybe it's not exactly bulletin board material for the Wildcats, who will begin defense of their national championship Thursday night against 16th-seeded Mount St. Mary's (see story).
 
Huggins, who will lead his team against Bucknell, dished on his relationship with Wright.
 
"I think he's a heck of a coach," he said. "We had just great games when we were both in the Big East."
 
The topic eventually turned to fashion, and Huggins explained how it came to be that he is known for wearing a pullover during games. The short story is that he sweated through a suit and tie one game so badly he needed to change at halftime.
 
That led to Wright being asked about his fashion sense.
 
"The reason that I dress that way, it's just been the tradition, you know, in coaching you wear a suit and tie," he said. "But Hugs is -- I would like to do an article on the lines Hugs gives me before the game when you shake hands about your attire, his attire, your look, his look. It's great. It could fill an article.
 
"I like Hugs' look. When you wear a nice suit and you're in the huddle and they're sweating on your suit, the guys are dripping on top of you. I'm thinking, 'Why am I wearing this nice suit?' But it's tradition."
 
Battling old memories in Buffalo
Buffalo hasn't made the best impression on Josh Hart.
 
The Wildcats' senior guard was part of the Villanova team that lost as a No. 2 seed to UConn in 2014. The Huskies went on to win the national championship that year.
 
"I remember that one vividly," Hart said. "Shabazz Napier, that UConn team, they were tough and talented, but we try not to think about that too much now.
 
"Obviously, you know, we knew we were playing in Buffalo. That was the first thing. When we heard Buffalo, we were like, 'We went there freshman year. We had a tough game against UConn there.' But now, we don't really think about it. I think the only time we thought about it was the first time we heard we were probably going to be going to Buffalo. And it was like, 'Oh, Buffalo.'"
 
Hart and his teammates arrived in western New York Monday in an effort to beat a snowstorm that hit much of the East Coast. The weather in Buffalo has been pretty much what you might expect -- snowy.
 
"I thought I'd get to see the sun," Hart said. "I hope that's not what it's like up here all 365 days. I mean, I like the warm weather, so I don't want to say go back home because I think it's snowing in Philly, too. We just got to tough through it the last couple weeks and put up with the weather. So I guess you could say we feel like Buffalonians."
 
The Wildcats holed up inside their team hotel Monday night.
 
"We watched a movie together. That was really about it," Hart said. "I wish I could tell you we had like this epic snowball fight and it was amazing. But, no, not really. We've just been in our rooms, just relaxing, taking our mind off the tournament, and just enjoying each other's company."

Know your foe
The Wildcats gathered as a team Tuesday night to watch Mount St. Mary's victory.
 
Senior forward Darryl Reynolds came away impressed with what he saw.
 
"They're a good team," he said. "They're a good team like every team in this tournament. They play fast, they seem to play hard. They're disciplined in their coaching."
 
After he was done responding, Reynolds moved toward the microphone and said, "Sorry if I wasn't talking loud enough. I just realized I could have leaned a little bit forward. … I'm sitting here whispering. I'm sorry about that."
 
"You're coachable. Good work," the press conference's moderator replied.
 
One shining moment
Get ready to see arguably the greatest moment in Villanova history on repeat.
 
Kris Jenkins' game-winning three-pointer in the national championship game against North Carolina last year immediately became one of the iconic plays in college basketball. Jenkins, however, insisted again Wednesday that it's just that to him -- history.
 
"I don't even think about it," he said. "I talk about it when I'm asked about it. It wasn't hard for me because I still have a lot that I want to accomplish. I'm a part of this great team with these great guys and the guys in the locker room. So, when you have guys around you like that, it's easy to refocus."

That ability has amazed Wright.
 
"He's a confident, cocky -- in a good way -- kid," the coach said. "We talked about it right after the season. And he's real bright. He's really bright. When we talked about, 'You still got a year left, you want to get better, you got this for the rest of your life.' He right away internalizes that."
 
Wright has specifically watched Jenkins during practice to see if there is ever a moment he lets his guard down.
 
"When the guys do shooting drills at the end of practice or they're doing competitions, you would think one time it would slip, 'I hit the big shot,'" Wright said. "I've never ever, ever seen him mention it ever, and it's really impressive."

Villanova moves up to No. 1 in the nation

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Villanova moves up to No. 1 in the nation

If you're looking for a sliver of good news on a depressing day in Philly sports, Villanova is now the No. 1 team in the nation.

The 10-0 Wildcats moved up to the top spot in Monday's AP poll, receiving 41 of 65 first-place votes.

Michigan State, Wichita State, Duke and Arizona State round out the top five, in that order (see Top 25).

Duke, the unanimous No. 1 team the last two Mondays, lost 89-84 on Saturday at Boston College.

Last week's No. 2 team, Kansas, moved down to No. 13 after losing twice last week to Washington and Arizona State.

Villanova plays twice this week — at Temple on Wednesday for a Big 5 showdown, then vs. Hofstra on Friday night. Those are the Wildcats' last two non-conference games before they begin Big East play on Dec. 27 at DePaul.

Donte DiVincenzo, Phil Booth help No. 4 Villanova survive La Salle scare

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Donte DiVincenzo, Phil Booth help No. 4 Villanova survive La Salle scare

BOX SCORE

Duke's run at No. 1 ended with a court-storming loss at Boston College and No. 2 Kansas wilted in a rare home loss.

Undaunted and undefeated, Villanova is charging toward the top spot.

"We played the next No. 1 team in the country," La Salle coach John Giannini said Sunday.

The Explorers got a taste of how tough it can be to knock off the Wildcats. La Salle scored more baskets, sank more 3-pointers, had more steals and still was just another victim in Villanova's unbeaten season.

Phil Booth scored 18 points and Donte DiVincenzo had 18 points and 10 rebounds to help the fourth-ranked Wildcats avoid an upset in a 77-68 win over La Salle.

"They don't have bad games," Giannini said.

This was as close as one gets for the Wildcats (10-0). They were sloppy -- throwing the ball away several times on outlet passes -- slumped from the 3-point line and could not shake the pesky Explorers until the final minutes of the game to win their 21st straight Big 5 game.

The Wildcats had depth and a massive edge from the free-throw line to sink the Explorers. La Salle (5-6) was a two-man show in B.J Johnson and Amar Stukes, and that was enough to give them a 62-61 lead with 4:47 left.

But the Wildcats had Booth and DiVincenzo, and Jalen Brunson scored 17 and Mikal Bridges, quiet all game, came to life for crucial baskets late to seal the win. Throw in the whopping disparity from the line -- Villanova made 27 of 35, La Salle was 4 of 5 -- and the Wildcats made their case for why they should fight it out with No 3. Michigan State (9-1) to become the new No. 1 team in the AP Top 25.

"It's a great lesson for our guys. The score isn't always what the game is really about," Villanova coach Jay Wright said.

Booth put the Wildcats ahead with three free throws and followed with an assist on DiVincenzo's 3-pointer that made it 67-62 and finally gave them a bit of breathing room. Bridges, coming off a career-high 28 points against Gonzaga, went inside for a pair of tough buckets and a 71-64 lead that brought the Villanova fans to their feet.

"These guys have played in these games. They're not surprised," Wright said.

Johnson led the Explorers with 21 points and Stukes had 16 to help keep slim hopes alive of pulling off a stunner. The duo combined to hit seven 3-pointers and carried La Salle to the brink of victory.

"When we're out there and we started making plays, we felt like we could do that against anybody," Stukes said. "The shots started falling. We just had to play defense."

The Wildcats beat No. 12 Gonzaga by 16 points this week at Madison Square Garden and were expected to roll against the Explorers at the Wells Fargo Center. The foundation for their perfect record had come from the 3-point line; the Wildcats hit a school-record 19 against Saint Joseph's and buried 10 against the Zags. Against the Explorers, the 3s dried up in the first half. Villanova missed its first six attempts and missed eight of 10 overall in the half.

La Salle went the opposite direction in the first half. Shooting a miserable 29 percent from 3-point range this season, the Explorers went 6 of 12 to take a 38-37 lead. Stukes hit two straight 3s and his bucket a tick before the horn gave La Salle the lead at the break.

Villanova, La Salle, Saint Joseph's, Temple and Penn make up the city series field. The Wildcats have emerged as the class of the city and haven't been defeated by a Philadelphia-area team since Temple won on Dec. 5, 2012.

Big picture
La Salle: The Explorers lost for the 15th time in the last 16 games against Villanova. But a lot of teams lose all the time to `Nova. It's what the Explorers do from here that will define their season. They have two more nonconference games to shape up before they open the Atlantic 10 season Dec. 30 against St. Louis. The Explorers haven't made the NCAA Tournament since 2013 and will need more consistent performances like they had in the first half to get there again this season.

Villanova: The Wildcats win again. Even when the score is close, the outcome never seems in doubt against a city school. Los Angeles Lakers rookie Josh Hart, one of the stars of the 2016 national championship team, sat courtside and earned a standing ovation as the alum of the game. He trash-talked Johnson in the second half and laughed when the La Salle forward buried a bucket after their exchange.

Ouch
Villanova played without G Collin Gillespie because of a left wrist injury suffered in practice.

Up next
La Salle: Hosts Mercer on Sunday.

Villanova: The Wildcats finish the Big 5 season Wednesday at Temple.