Wild­cats open ti­tle de­fense with romp over Lafayette

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Dan Gelston

VIL­LANOVA >> Kris Jenk­ins hit a 3-pointer with­out much hoopla.

He wasn’t mobbed by his Vil­lanova team­mates and con­fetti didn’t rain from the rafters. No stream­ers, no hys­ter­i­cal fans. Jenk­ins sim­ply hus­tled back for a rou­tine de­fen­sive as­sign­ment.

His first 3 of the game sim­ply helped the Wild­cats open the sea­son the same way they ended the last one — with a win.

Jalen Brun­son scored 17 points, Jenk­ins had 16 and No. 4 Vil­lanova opened de­fense of its na­tional cham­pi­onship with an 88-48 vic­tory over Lafayette on Fri­day night.

“Play­ing a game is prob­a­bly the best thing we can do to get past last sea­son,” coach Jay Wright said.

Jenk­ins hit a buzzer-beat­ing 3 in the ti­tle game to lift the Wild­cats to a 77-74 win over North Carolina. With a na­tional cham­pi­onship ban­ner hang­ing in the rafters, Jenk­ins nat­u­rally scored Vil­lanova’s 3-pointer of the sea­son. Jenk­ins scored his first bas­ket of the sea­son off a turnover he forced at mid­court, hit his first 3 to make it 10-2 and helped the Wild­cats storm to a 49-17 lead.

Wright had said he wanted the Wild­cats to put the White House visit, a pa­rade, nu­mer­ous awards shows and ban­quets, and other honors be­hind them as they opened the sea­son. Vil­lanova looked ev­ery bit like a team that could be­come the first re­peat na­tional champ since Flor­ida in 2006 and 2007.

Jenk­ins, who flirted with leav­ing for the NBA, said the Wild­cats had moved for­ward.

“It’s pretty easy to do be­cause we have a team that’s hun­gry,” he said.

The Wild­cats, the three­time de­fend­ing Big East champs, also have a team that’s deep and ver­sa­tile. Josh Hart, a pre­sea­son All-Amer­ica, scored 13 points for the Wild­cats. Re­serve Mikal Bridges had 16 points and eight re­bounds.

“That’s what a top team has,” Lafayette coach Fran O’Han­lon said. “It has a num­ber of guys fight­ing for a lot of play­ing time and get­ting a lot of play­ing time.”

Brun­son and Jenk­ins each hit four of Vil­lanova’s 15 3-point­ers.

Nick Lind­ner led the Leop­ards with 10 points. Lafayette

BIG PIC­TURE

LAFAYETTE >> The Leop­ards con­tinue to play Vil­lanova, even with just one win in 10 ca­reer matchups. The Leop­ards missed 12 of 13 3-point at­tempts in the first half and scored only two points on their first 20 pos­ses­sions. The Leop­ards, out of the Pa­triot League, won’t play an­other team in the reg­u­lar sea­son close to a pro­gram such as Vil­lanova. Lafayette does re­turn to Philadel­phia on Dec. 22 to play at Saint Joseph’s. VIL­LANOVA >> The Wild­cats could use an easy one before they play at No. 15 Pur­due on Mon­day. The Wild­cats won their 40th straight game at the Pav­il­ion and sold out the gym for the 170th straight time. Vil­lanova is a whop­ping 98-13 there since the start of the 2013-14 sea­son.

THANKS FOR NOTH­ING

O’Han­lon played point guard for three sea­sons (1967-70) for the Wild­cats. He had just one small prob­lem open­ing the sea­son at Vil­lanova

“Jay didn’t say he was go­ing to win the na­tional ti­tle,” O’Han­lon said with a laugh.

The Wild­cats make a re­turn trip next sea­son and play Lafayette at the PPL Cen­ter in Al­len­town. O’Han­lon said the orig­i­nal pitch to his pro­gram was that the game in Al­len­town would be this sea­son. When that fell through, the Wild­cats of­fered Lafayette to come to cam­pus this sea­son.

“Yeah, that’s some fa­vor, Jay,” O’Han­lon said. “I’m go­ing to play the na­tional champs twice. They may be twice (two-time champs) by that time.”

UP NEXT

Lafayette plays Mon­day night at Saint Peter’s.

Vil­lanova tries for a 3-0 ca­reer mark against the Boil­er­mak­ers on Mon­day. Vil­lanova won games in 1995 and 2012.

LAU­RENCE KESTERSON — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Vil­lanova’s Josh Hart (3) is fouled by Lafayette’s Kyle Stout (24) in the sec­ond half Fri­day.

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