Villanova Wildcats

Villanova seniors Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, Darryl Reynolds look back at unforgettable run

Villanova seniors Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, Darryl Reynolds look back at unforgettable run

VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Less than 48 hours after their careers ended with a crushing loss to Wisconsin in Buffalo, Villanova's three seniors stood together for the last time on the practice court at the Davis Center on campus trying to make sense of it all.

Three early NCAA exits surrounding a national championship. More wins than anybody in the country since the start of the 2013-14 season but only one trip to the Sweet 16. 

"It's difficult to accept, but that's the reality of it," Josh Hart said. "We gave it everything we could. We battled. We battled our whole careers here and gave everything we could to the program.

"We had some successful years so whenever we think about it, we'll think about those years and what we accomplished. ... We gave everything we could. A call here, a call there, a made shot here, a made shot there, but that's the luck of the draw. You've got to give Wisconsin all the credit. They're a tough, talented, very experienced team. We just ran into a good team."

It's a Villanova tradition that soon after the season ends, the players meet with the media.

Last year's interview was a continuation of the elation following the national championship.

This was different, following just two days after an excruciating loss, and Hart, Darryl Reynolds and Kris Jenkins -- Villanova's three seniors and the only players Villanova made available -- spontaneously decided to stand together and answer questions as a group.

It seemed like they just wanted one more moment together.

"The camaraderie, you can't put a price on that," Reynolds said, as Jenkins and Hart nodded in agreement. "A lot of people say this will be the last time you'll be with a group of guys who are this connected because after this point it is a complete business. More than anything, we're going to miss each other.

"We're not going to hang our heads. We had great careers here, we gave it everything we had and we walk away from it with no regrets. ...

"When you come up short, it's OK because you know you put everything you had into it."

Coach Jay Wright met with the full team Monday for the final time, and part of his message was that they have plenty to be proud of. Focus on the successes and not the failures.

"They hear the criticism from the outside, and we all understand that that comes with our position in college basketball right now and you have to accept that," Wright said.

"But we were very clear to them, that what they accomplished this season and in the regular season and the Big East Tournament and even the way they comported themselves in the NCAA Tournament, they should be proud. They should be really proud. They gave great effort, they never quit, they stuck together (and) that's all you can ask of an athlete.

"If someone were to back down in that game or someone would have got a little selfish in that game, then maybe you question something. But no one did. And no one did all season.

"It was really an incredible season, we just understand that on the outside in college basketball you get evaluated by how you advance in the NCAA Tournament. And it's OK. That's fair. But we want them to be proud of their effort this season."

In the end, this Villanova team seemed gassed. With Jenkins unable to find his shot, Mikal Bridges struggling late and Phil Booth and Omari Spellman unavailable, the Wildcats were really down to three scorers -- Hart, Jalen Brunson and reserve Donte DiVincenzo. It's a tough way to win.

Wright even spoke Monday of how last year ran right into this year and it seemed like the Wildcats never got a break.

"No complaints, I would do it all over again," he said. "But I think we could all use a break."

So they won 32 games and the Big East Tournament really with a seven-man rotation and just didn't have enough in the tank the last few minutes against a Wisconsin team that was ranked as high as No. 7 in the country a month ago, has been to two Final Fours in the last three years and goes 10 deep.

"We gave everything we could to this university and we're proud of that," Jenkins said. "We're proud of how we conducted ourselves as student-athletes representing this university.

"It didn't end the way we wanted, but we had great careers and we're proud of that."

These seniors have experienced highs and lows that most college basketball players never experience.

A year ago, they were in the middle of a historic run that ended with a trip to the White House.

Now they're back on campus, back in class, back to being regular college students.

"That's what the tournament is," Wright said. "You play for high stakes and you get great rewards when you win, so you can't avoid criticism when you lose. You've just got to take it, and no one's wrong in giving it to you.

"But you've got to look at yourself and say, 'Did we do everything we could do?' You know? And I really think the guys did and I want them to be proud of their efforts and their attitude and that's what we judge ourselves on."

Hart, Jenkins and Reynolds were a part of four teams that went a combined 129-17, the 10th-most wins ever by a Division I program in a four-year span.

Villanova's worst record with these guys in the lineup was 29-5.

They were ranked as high as No. 3 in the country all four years, won the Big East regular season four times, the Big East Tournament twice and the NCAA Tournament last year.

But then there are those three early exits. In 2014, 2015 and 2017, Villanova lost as a 1- or 2-seed to an opponent seeded seventh or lower.

"It's very tough but we gave this program everything we had since we got here and we're thankful for the opportunity we've had and the relationships that we've had here and now it's time to move on and hopefully we can do some more great things in the future," Jenkins said.

"I thought we battled and we gave it all we had. No one gave up, no one quit, we left it all out there for each other. We just fell a little short."

James Madison shows why it's No. 1 in FCS with win over No. 11 Villanova

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USA Today Images

James Madison shows why it's No. 1 in FCS with win over No. 11 Villanova

BOX SCORE

HARRISONBURG, Va. — Bryan Schor threw for 271 yards and two touchdowns, and defending FCS champion James Madison beat Villanova 30-8 on Saturday to set a conference record with 18 straight victories.

The Dukes broke Richmond's Colonial Athletic Association mark, set from 2008-09. James Madison hasn't lost to another FCS member since the second round of the 2015 playoffs against Colgate.

James Madison built a 13-0 lead at halftime after holding Villanova to just 58 yards with three sacks and an interception. The Wildcats pulled to 16-8 early in the fourth but Schor connected with David Eldridge for a 29-yard score. Brandon Hereford capped it with his first career pick and touchdown with 1:57 left.

Terrence Alls made seven catches for 83 yards for James Madison (6-0, 3-0), which hosted ESPN's College Gameday for the second time.

The popular pre-game program aired for the eighth time from a FCS location. It helped draw the second-largest crowd in school history with 25,993.

Jimmy Moreland made an interception on Villanova's third play of the game and James Madison got to the Wildcats' 5 before settling for a 3-0 lead. Clayton Cheatham extended it 13-0 by catching an open pass over the middle and breaking tackles near the end zone for a 23-yard score.

Schor went over 5,000 career passing yards in the first half.

Freshman Kyle McCloskey started the second half at quarterback for Villanova (4-3, 2-2). He threw for 15 yards and added 43 yards on the ground. The Wildcats, who entered allowing just 13.2 points per game, were held to 174 total yards.

College Gameday
The ESPN crew was also live from James Madison in 2015 in front of more than 12,000 fans. The game against Richmond drew a Bridgeforth Stadium-record crowd of 26,069.

Up Next
Villanova has a bye week before hosting Elon on Oct. 28.

James Madison plays at William & Mary next Saturday.

Jay Wright to receive John R. Wooden 'Legends of Coaching' honor

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Jay Wright to receive John R. Wooden 'Legends of Coaching' honor

Jay Wright will recieve the John R. Wooden Award's "Legends of Coaching" honor in 2018. The award goes to coaches who personify legendary coach John Wooden's standards of coaching success and personal integrity.

Wright will be honored on April 6 at the College Basketball Awards in Los Angeles.

Wright has 23 years of coaching under his belt with his last 16 coming at Villanova. In his last 13 seasons on the Main Line, the Wildcats have reached the NCAA Tournament 12 times, including a national championship in 2016 with a thrilling 77-74 victory over North Carolina.

Wright and his squad begin the 2017-18 season Nov. 10 against Columbia at the Wells Fargo Center.