Morgan State

Villanova opens national title defense with win over Morgan State at refurbished Pavilion

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Villanova opens national title defense with win over Morgan State at refurbished Pavilion

Updated: 10:05 p.m.


VILLANOVA, Pa. — Villanova started to head out for the second half toward its rehabilitated court when it somehow got lost in a maze of exits and sprinted out the wrong end.

"Everything's a first," coach Jay Wright said. "We're figuring it out."

The Wildcats will quickly get used to the intricacies of their digs.

They already seem quite at home, and as dominant as usual, at the new-look Pavilion.

Eric Paschall scored 26 points, Phil Booth had 17 and No. 9 Villanova opened its national championship defense with a 100-77 win over Morgan State on Tuesday night.

"I feel like we have great potential," Paschall said.

The Wildcats always do — they've won 12 straight games dating to last season and won their 16th consecutive season opener.

The new kid on the block that shone the most was the refurbished Pavilion, which closed for a season and forced the Wildcats to play a year in Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center. Villanova's on-campus court underwent a $65 million facelift that would have made the Property Brothers jealous.

The Wildcats couldn't put a price tag on their sweetest accessory — the 2018 national championship banner raised high above midcourt. Under Wright, Villanova has won two of the last three national championships, and seating for this season is at a premium. StubHub had lower level tickets selling for $375 shortly before tip, and a gym that for three decades had a skeleton crew of concession stands suddenly had deep-pocketed donors noshing on fried shrimp, $10 Wildcat burgers and taking a nip of top-shelf booze.

"Man, it was loud, it was jumping the whole time," Wright said. "I thought the crowd was great. There's a different vibe in here. It's definitely louder. It's pretty cool."

Bad news for the Big East, the Wildcats have more of a homecourt edge.

The Pavilion's courtside press row seating was stripped to make room for 88 courtside seats, there was club seating for the first time and the concourse also wrapped 360 degrees. The lights were dimmed for an NBA-worthy lineup introduction -- kind of a big deal considering in the old joint derisively known as the "ski lodge," it took 20 minutes for the entire building to light up once the switches were flipped.

On opening night, the Pavilion was lit.

Artificial noise was pumped in and fans were encouraged to stand until the Wildcats scored their first basket. It didn't take long. Collin Gillespie hit a 3 and the Wildcats hit from long range much like they did against Michigan in the title game in San Antonio, Texas.

They just didn't look like the same Wildcats.

AP Player of the Year Jalen Brunson plays for the Dallas Mavericks. Omari Spellman is with the Atlanta Hawks. Mikal Bridges landed in Phoenix after a draft-night trade with the 76ers, and Donte DiVincenzo — who scored 31 points in the title game win over Michigan — is with the Milwaukee Bucks. That's a ton of talent that walked out the door, but the Wildcats were eager to showcase the replacements. With the Wildcats up 15 in the first half, they had Booth, who has two national championships, and four freshmen on the court.

"We actually weren't trying the lineups. We were trying for fresh bodies," Wright said.

Saddiq Bey, one of those freshman, hit 3s on his first two shots and scored 16 points. Jahvon Quinerly buried a 3 for his only bucket.

Paschall made his first six baskets and scored 19 points in the first half. Paschall and Booth showed the veterans will lead the Wildcats early will the underclassmen find their way.

"We have to listen to the old guys like Eric and Phil," Bey said.

Big picture
Morgan State: Isaiah Burke led the Bears with 17 points. Morgan State took advantage of weak Villanova defense. The Bears started 12 of 24 from the floor and only trailed 54-43 at the break. They only trailed 64-57 with 12 minutes left in the second half before the Wildcats pull away. The Bears made only five 3s to 12 for Villanova.

Villanova: The rich get richer — on the court and, well, around it — and there's little reason to think the Wildcats won't again be in the national title picture.

Bear necessities 
Morgan State had more points in the paint (48-40), points off turnovers (22-10) and off the bench (45-36).

Up next
Morgan State stays in Pennsylvania with a game Friday at St. Francis.

Villanova has one more tune-up against Quinnipiac on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center before it has a national championship game rematch against Michigan.

Balanced Penn State pulls away for 41-point win over Morgan State

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Balanced Penn State pulls away for 41-point win over Morgan State


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Tony Carr looked toward the basket, took a step inside and bounced a pass into the hands of Shep Garner, who dropped it neatly in the hoop.

Garner pointed in Carr's direction and offered a respectful nod as they headed back down the court where they'd soon be back on the attack again and again during Penn State's 96-55 win over Morgan State on Wednesday.

It was the pace and trust Penn State coach Patrick Chambers envisioned his team playing with before the season started. Then, he knew he'd have veterans like Garner to lean on. He also knew Penn State would need to draw plenty from rookies like Carr.

"This is what I envisioned for sure," Chambers said. "I think they're getting really smart where we're not jacking 3s in those situations where we may have missed a few in the row. Now we've got to put pressure on the paint. Now we've got to get ourselves to the free-throw line. Now we've got to go attack the rim really strong."

The Nittany Lions (8-5) did so in waves.

Lamar Stevens scored 20 points, Carr and Payton Banks added 11 apiece and Mike Watkins, Shep Garner and Julian Moore scored 10 each for Penn State, which has won two straight.

Penn State used a 23-10 run to take a 49-29 halftime lead and never led by less than 18 in the second half. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions outrebounded the Bears 49-32, outscored them in the paint 52-12 and dropped 27 fast-break points.

Phillip Carr led Morgan State (3-8) with 19 points and Kyle Thomas added 14.

It was the sixth loss in the last seven games for the Bears, who played their second straight without leading scorer Tiwian Kendley.

Sharing the ball
Tony Carr, who finished with 10 rebounds, just missed out on what would've been his first career triple-double. He finished with eight assists, many of them slick like his inside feed to Garner in the first half. Overall, it was an unselfish night for the Nittany Lions who combined for 23 assists.

A handful of them were made by Stevens as he had to decide when and where to drive to the hoop as Morgan State defenders rushed to the top of the arc to guard him.

They had little success. Stevens began the second with six of his team's first 10 points, including two on a vicious dunk set up by another nice inside dish by Carr.

"The juice that he brings off his dunks, he is fearless when he's going to the basket and he also will jump up and make an extra pass," Chambers said. "He is becoming a really good basketball player and the feel that he has right now, for a freshman, he's a little bit beyond his years."

No Kendley, little offense
The Bears had trouble scoring without top shooter Kendley, who's led them in points in five of nine games he's played. The junior transfer from Lamar Community College missed his second straight game with a stress fracture in his right foot. Despite suffering the injury in an earlier game, Kendley scored 40 in a two-overtime game against Manhattan on Dec. 6 before the injury flared up and forced him to sit out.

Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman said he expects Kendley back "at some point" this season.

"I knew it was going to be tough missing his points and assists and rebounds and his toughness," Bozeman said. "He's the grittiest guy we got."

The big picture
Morgan State: The Bears haven't had a winning season since 2012-13 and although they don't appear headed for one this year, they'll have chances in the MEAC. Only North Coastal Central (7-5) has a winning record and the other 12 teams combined for a 35-116 record heading into Wednesday.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions dominated in every facet and looked more like the up-tempo team that started the season averaging 85 points over its first four. Coach Pat Chambers hoped a starting lineup that includes three freshmen would continue to rely on physical defense to dictate a fast offensive pace. Chambers has to be pleased as his team played its best defensive game of the season with the Big Ten opener up next.

Up next
Morgan State plays at Loyola Marymount (6-3) on Monday.

Penn State hosts Northwestern (10-2) in the Big Ten opener for both teams on Tuesday.