NCAA

No. 2 Villanova not concerned with being No. 1 after dominant win over St. Joe's

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No. 2 Villanova not concerned with being No. 1 after dominant win over St. Joe's

BOX SCORE

VILLANOVA, Pa. — “We’re No.1.”

The chant rained down from the student section of the packed Pavilion in the closing minutes of Villanova’s dominating 88-57 win over archrival St. Joe’s Saturday (see Instant Replay).

With No. 1 Kentucky falling to No.11 UCLA Saturday afternoon, Villanova fans are hoping their team leapfrogs Kentucky for the No. 1 spot in the country.

The team? Not so much. 

“Thank God we’ve experienced that already,” head coach Jay Wright said. “It’s something to deal with. And last year, we really didn’t know what to do about it … I thought it affected us a little bit."

Last season, Villanova reached the top spot on Feb. 8. That ranking lasted a whole two weeks. 

“Hopefully, if it happens, we’ll be better,” Wright said. “If it doesn’t happen, we’ll be fine.

“If it happened, these seniors would know, we all would know, what it’s all about. 
“If it didn’t happen, they also know it’s not the biggest of a deal, because we did it, and we lost it.”

But to be in contention for the top spot, the Wildcats first had to deal with a slumping St. Joe’s team.

The Hawks “came out and they had a lot of energy,” as senior Kris Jenkins put it. The Hawks, led by the young backcourt duo of Shavar Newkirk and Lamarr Kimble, put up a fight against the reigning national champions, even taking a three-point lead with nine minutes to go in the first half. 

“We wanted to avoid the spurts,” St. Joe’s head coach Phil Martelli said. “We wanted to play the game in segments.”

After winning the opening segment, the Hawks couldn’t avoid giving up one of those game-killing spurts. 

Led by Josh Hart and Jenkins, Villanova went on a 20-4 run to close out the half. The Wildcats forced six turnovers in five minutes, while shooting 8 for 11 during that stretch, giving the Wildcats a 44-31 halftime advantage.

“Whenever we come out, we want to start the game playing Villanova basketball,” Jenkins said. “We want to set the tone, and they came out and they had a lot of energy, but we were able to wear them out over the course of 40 minutes.”

Hart finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists — recording the school’s first triple-double since 1986.
 
“He’s just so complete in every way … He’s the best competitor out there,” Wright said. “If he wasn’t on a team with Kris, he’s one of the best shooters, he’s one of the best finishers in the country, and he’s a great decision maker and he’s our best defensive player.

“The guy's so complete, I just believe he’ll be a great player at the next level … I think this guy is as complete a player as there is in the country.”

While the “segments” approach didn’t work in the Hawks’ favor, neither did the overall game plan. 

“The plan was to have them go over the top of us, not through us. Their numbers on two-point shooting coming in were extraordinary, not that their three-point shooting was poor,” Martelli said. 

The Hawks learned the hard way that the over-the-top approach doesn’t work. Villanova shot 47 percent from three (16 for 34), with Jenkins “deadly weapon” of a shot sinking a game-high four three-pointers. 

After the game, both Wright and Martelli admitted Villanova’s experience made the difference in those crucial eight minutes before the half. 

“Just having older guys makes a big difference in this game,” Wright said.  “I think their young guys are going to be really good."

The game was a tale of two teams quickly heading in different directions.

The loss is the fourth straight for St. Joe’s, following a 3-0 start to the season. 

“I hope that everybody is willing to self-examine,” Martelli said. “Anger doesn’t do it. Frustration doesn’t do it. You have to self-evaluate.

“The mindset is that you start with the man in the mirror and go from there.”

For Villanova, the win is their eighth straight to start the year. Is that good enough for the No. 1 spot in the nation?

“Whatever happens, happens,” Wright said. 

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.