Villanova sets record with 15th straight Big 5 victory
PHILADELPHIA >> Ed Pinckney, Dwayne McClain and Gary McLain could not do it. Neither could Randy Foye, Allan Ray and Jason Fraser or Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu.
Since freshmen became eligible in 1972-73, no class at Villanova has been able to go undefeated in the month of November for four consecutive years until Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds arrived on campus in 2013.
Fittingly, those senior combined for 46 points as the secondranked Wildcats rolled over Penn, 82-57, Tuesday night at the Palestra in the Big 5 opener to both teams to extend their November record to 26-0 over the last four years.
In the process, Villanova (7-0) also extended its Big 5 winning streak to a record 15 games and extended its dominance over the Quakers to 14 games in a row.
Springfield native and Penn coach Steve Donahue, who spent a few years in the ACC as the head coach at Boston College, was wowed by what the Wildcats have been able to do.
“The thing that impresses me the most is that there is an incredible buy-in,” Donahue said of Villanova’s success over the last four years. “That’s not that easy
at that level. It’s not easy at any level, but it’s very difficult with the distractions that go along with playing at that level, kids who have their eye on the NBA and have a lot of people in their ear.
“Their culture at Villanova is what makes them great. I don’t mean this to slight their talent, but there’s a lot more talented teams in this country. Not a ton, but a good share, (teams with) more length, more size, more speed, depth, skill, but there’s no team that plays together and that hard in every aspect of the game.”
All of those attributes were on display against the Quakers (2-3) as the Villanova juggernaut kept rolling along.
Jenkins, the hero of the national championship team, led all scorers with 22 points to become the 63rd member of the 1,000-point club at Villanova. He has scored 1,009 points in his career.
How did he react to becoming a member of that club? Jenkins shrugged it off, of course.
“What does it mean?,” asked Jenkins, who shot 6-for-7 from 3-point land. “It means 1,000. It doesn’t mean that much.”
Jenkins was thinking about Saturday’s showdown with Saint Joseph’s at the Pavilion. And so was Hart who had 12 points, nine assists and six rebounds despite not starting as punishment for being late to a weight training session Sunday.
Hart also did not realize that the Wildcats were on the verge of going undefeated in November for the fourth consecutive year, as well as being on the cusp of Big 5 history until recently.
“I wasn’t aware of it until the last game,” Hart said of Villanova’s November success. “We were watching film and it popped up in one of the clips. That’s the first time I ever saw it. No one ever talked about it. I don’t think anyone else knew. If that clip wasn’t in the film, I would not have known. It’s something that’s neat and something we’ll come back to down the line, but we’re focused on the next game. We’ll celebrate those things at the end of the year.”
The Wildcats will celebrate their accomplishments as a group, which is how they rolled past the Quakers to continue an impressive winning streak that grows more remarkable with each passing game.
Reynolds reached double figures for the second time this season with 12 points. He also pulled down eight rebounds. Redshirt freshman Donte DiVincenzo took Hart’s place in the starting lineup and tallied 13 points in the first start of his collegiate career.
Mikal Bridges continues to fill in nicely for Phil Booth in the starting lineup. Booth missed his fourth straight game with left knee inflammation. He is possible for Saturday’s game with Saint Joseph’s and probable for next Tuesday’s game against La Salle. Bridges contributed 10 points, five rebounds and two assists.
Meanwhile, Jalen Brunson had another solid game at the point. The sophomore finished with 11 points and two assists in 29 minutes.
Add it all together and you have another dominating victory for the Wildcats early in the season, something that has become commonplace since Hart, Jenkins and Reynolds arrived on the Main Line.
Villanova’s 26-0 run in November came against 24 teams with a 55.3 winning percentage. In that stretch the Wildcats went 4-0 against the Big 10, 2-0 versus the ACC and PAC-12 and 1-0 against the Big 12.
The Big 5 streak is just as impressive. Villanova has won its last 15 City Series games by an average of 18.8 points per game. Only one of those games, a 6561 decision over Saint Joseph’s Dec. 12, 2012, was by single digits. The rest have been by at least 13 points and eight have been by 20 points or more.
Villanova’s last Big 5 loss was a 76-61 decision to Temple at the Pavilion Dec. 5, 2012.
“They’re mentally and physically tougher than their opponents,” Donahue said. “They know it. I don’t sense a cockiness about them, but I sense an incredible confidence about how they’re going to win.”
••• Penn had three players in double figures. Jackson Donahue led the way with 12 points, Darnell Foreman and freshman A.J. Brodeur chipped in with 10 points each. The Quakers are back in action Saturday against Temple at the Liacouras Center.
Villanova guard Jalen Brunson drives around Penn guard Darnell Foreman in the first half Tuesday.
Penn’sy Jackson Donahue (5) and Donte DiVincenzo of Villanova chase down a loose ball Tuesday.
Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo takes a shot past Darnell Foreman of Penn in the second half Tuesday.