Wildcats open title defense with romp over Lafayette
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
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.”
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.
Villanova’s Josh Hart (3) is fouled by Lafayette’s Kyle Stout (24) in the second half Friday.