Hart shoots Wild­cats into Charleston fi­nal

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Pete Iacobelli

CHARLESTON, S.C. >> Josh Hart loved Villanova’s de­fense, say­ing it was big­gest rea­son why the third-ranked Wild­cats blew past Wake For­est on Fri­day.

Hart’s shoot­ing helped a bunch, too.

Hart scored a ca­reer-high 30 points off six 3-point­ers to lead the Wild­cats to a 96-77 vic­tory over De­mon Dea­cons. Villanova (4-0) ad­vanced to the fi­nals of the Charleston Clas­sic, slow­ing down a Wake For­est of­fense that scored 103 points a day ear­lier. “We were all ready,” Hart said. Es­pe­cially Hart, the se­nior pre­sea­son All-Amer­i­can who made five of his team’s first six shots to put the Wild­cats up 16-8. Villanova’s team de­fense made cer­tain

Wake For­est (3-1) would not mount a comeback.

“Our de­fense re­ally fu­eled our of­fense,” Hart said. “Get­ting those stops early on got us play­ing bas­ket­ball.”

Hart hit 11 of 14 shots over­all and six of his eight long-range at­tempts. He added four re­bounds, three steals and a pair of as­sists.

Mikal Bridges had 19 points and Kris Jenk­ins, the hero of Villanova’s cham­pi­onship win last April, added 16.

Wake For­est never could get back in it.

John Collins had 17 points to lead six De­mon Dea­cons in double-fig­ure scor­ing. The team shot 50 per­cent (29 of 58) and had just four turnovers. Not a bad show­ing against the coun­try’s No. 3 team?

“We lost by 20,” Wake For­est coach Danny Man­ning said. “It was a beat down.”

Villanova will play UCF or the Col­lege of Charleston for the ti­tle on Sun­day night.

Not ev­ery­thing went right for Hart, who was whis­tled for a tech­ni­cal foul late in the sec­ond half with his team ahead double dig­its when he got tied up and jawed with Wake For­est’s Bryant Craw­ford down low.

Still, he sur­passed his pre­vi­ous top to­tal of 27 points against Akron last sea­son.

Wake For­est made a late run, slic­ing a 20-point deficit to 87-75 on John Collins’ bucket with 3:55 to go. But Jalen Brun­son an­swered with an un­con­tested jam for the de­fend­ing NCAA Tour­na­ment champions.

When Kris Jenk­ins re­cov­ered a loose ball mo­ments later, the Wild­cats and coach Jay Wright cel­e­brated as if they’d won an­other na­tional ti­tle.

Big Pic­ture

Villanova owns Novem­ber. The Wild­cats are among the best starters in col­lege bas­ket­ball and con­tin­ued that against Wake For­est’s pow­er­ful of­fense (Dea­cons came in av­er­ag­ing 92 points a game) for its 23rd straight Novem­ber vic­tory. Villanova has won early sea­son Novem­ber tour­na­ments in 2013-14 (Bat­tle 4 At­lantis), 2014-15 (Leg­ends Clas­sic) and 201516 (NIT Sea­son Tipoff). They’ll for a fourth con­sec­u­tive Novem­ber crown on Sun­day night at TD Arena.

“These tour­na­ments are great,” Wright said. “These guys, they get this. It’s fun to be a part of this.”

Wake For­est does not yet have the de­fense to match its of­fense. The De­mon Dea­cons got in a first-half hole by leav­ing Villanova’s se­nior stars Hart and Jenk­ins wide open for sev­eral 3-point­ers. Jenk­ins hit two straight in the open­ing pe­riod to send Wake For­est down 41-25. Hart hit six from be­hind the arc with few defenders nearby.

Poll Im­pli­ca­tions

With No. 1 Duke’s loss ear­lier this week, count on Villanova to move up a spot as long as it lifts the Charleston Clas­sic trophy on Sun­day night.

In­jury Con­cerns

Wright said fresh­man for­ward Tim De­laney will have an MRI done on his sur­gi­cally re­paired hip and is un­sure when he’ll re­turn. Wright said ju­nior guard Phil Booth was held out be­cause of con­tin­u­ing ten­dini­tis wor­ries in his left knee af­ter off­sea­son surgery. Booth played 23 min­utes on Thurs­day and Wright thought rest­ing un­til Sun­day would do him well.

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