Villanova proved once again why they’re so hard to beat at home, easily defeating Seton Hall 76-46 on Monday night. The win gave the Wildcats their 47th straight victory in the Pavilion, a new school record. “We had our students back,” said coach Jay Wright after the game. “It’s nice to have them back. It’s a totally different atmosphere in there.”
The Cats shot 47% from the field and 46% from deep, including 12 3’s. Add in 10-11 from the line and it’s easy to see how the Cats were able to put up such gaudy numbers. On the defensive end, the team looked better than it had all season. Not only did they make it nearly impossible for the Pirates to get a clean shot inside the arc, but they forced them into 29% from the field for the game and just 25% from beyond the arc.
Nova also controlled the boards, winning the rebounding battle 39-33. It was an outright dominant win, as the Cats led Seton Hall in Points in the Paint (24-18), Points off Turnovers (27-11), 2nd Chance Points (14-7), Fast Break Points (7-0), and Points off the Bench (20-12).
It was the Wildcat’s first game after regaining the AP poll’s #1 ranking earlier that day. Nova has now been ranked #1 for six weeks, the most of any team this season. “It’s not really that big of a deal this time,” said Wright. “The guys have been around enough to know that it really doesn’t at this time of year. Getting ready for Seton Hall meant the most, and I thought the guys really focused on that and did a great job.”
It was a balanced effort on both ends of the court for Villanova as five players finished in double digits. Kris Jenkins led the Wildcats with 16 points and 4 rebounds. Jalen Brunson had 13 points and 6 assists. Donte DiVincenzo followed his career performance with 10 points, and Darryl Reynolds was just shy of a double-double with 8 rebounds and 9 boards.
While Josh Hart had an “off night” (which is simply ridiculous), he still managed 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. And that doesn’t include everything that isn’t captured by the stat sheet. After the game, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard noted that it’s not just the stats that make Hart a great player. “If Josh Hart’s not the player of the year, then there’s something wrong with people. They should put a statue of college basketball, of what Josh Hart is. You look at all around, how hard he plays on every possession offensively, defensively. I’m just such big fans of him and Kris Jenkins, and what they’ve done for their four years. They’re two terrific young men for the game of college basketball.
In the first half Villanova had everyone contributing, with 6 of 7 Wildcats scoring at least 5 points. The Cats were shooting 50% from the field and 42% from three. On defense, the team started to show glimpses of the lock down help defense that was the key to last year’s Championship run. Villanova was beating the Pirates 20-16 on the boards and held their opponents to just 27% from the floor on 8-30 shooting.
While this was Seton Hall’s 3rd straight road game in one week, Coach Willard was quick to point out the lopsided outcome had more to do with Villanova than the long road trip. “They’re good. I think we should be talking more about how good Villanova is, and the chance that they have to win back to back national championships. ‘Cause that’s pretty exciting.”
The entire Villanova student section was decked out in “We Are ONE” shirts honoring MLK day. They’re also a fitting representation of the team’s return to the top of the AP Rankings after spending one week at #3. This marks the Wildcats 6th week atop the poll, the most of any team this season.
But more importantly, the game was part of the Big East Marathon on FS1 honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Villanova has a special connection to King Jr. through former player George Raveling, who is the owner of King’s original “I Have A Dream” speech. The class of 1960 graduate said “I went down there that day to listen to history and ended up being a part of it.” The team featured a special video presentation before tip off that featured all of Villanova’s players reciting quotes from MLK.
Since the realignment of the Big East, Seton Hall is the only conference opponent to have picked up a W against Villanova every season. However, none of those three wins came at the Pavilion. And as the Pirates entered the game as 14 point underdogs, it didn’t seem likely that they’d be able to upset the Wildcats. In fact with a win, Villanova would set a school record of 47 for most consecutive wins on campus.
The game was delayed 15 minutes due to the DePaul vs. St. John’s game running long, but things eventually got going in front of a sold out Pavilion. There were some recruits in attendance, notably Jalen Smith and Jahvon Quinerly. Even Philadelphia 76er Ben Simmons was in the house. Villanova would continue with the starting lineup of Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, Darryl Reynolds, Jalen Brunson, and Mikal Bridges. Phil Booth remained sidelined with a knee injury, but the Cats were otherwise at full strength.
Seton Hall won the tip but was unable to convert on their first possession. Villanova returned the favor, unable to get a shot off before the buzzer sounded. The teams continued to trade empty possessions until Seton Hall’s leading scorer Khadeen Carrington was finally able to hit a three. But that just ignited the Wildcats as Reynolds was able to cut to the basket for a dunk and Hart was able to follow with a steal and a slam. Just over 3 minutes into the game, Nova held the early lead 4-3.
Despite Seton Hall having the size advantage coming into the game, head coach Jay Wright was going small early, keeping Reynolds and Paschall on the bench and running with Nova’s “Death Lineup” early in the game. It didn’t seem to effect rebounding as Villanova held a 5-3 lead on the boards at the first media timeout, but both teams were still struggling to make shots early on. Seton Hall, at just 1-7 from the field, couldn’t buy a basket.
Both teams continued to miss seemingly easy shots, and Seton Hall almost went a full 4 minutes before finally hitting two free throws to regain the lead. But that didn’t last long as Brunson found Eric Paschall for an open jumper at the top of the lane. Seton Hall, then turned the ball over on a travel call and Paschall was able to again capitalize with a three from the corner. The Cats now had their largest lead of the night, leading 9-5 with 13:29 left in the first half.
While Villanova was starting to find their touch on offense, their defense continued to shut down the Pirates. Not only were they hold their opponents to just 11% field goal shooting, but they were forcing multiple fouls, turnovers, and even getting blocked shots. Brunson was able to hit from deep in the corner, adding to an 8-0 Villanova run. With a score of 12-5 at the second media timeout, Nova was cruising with 11:54 remaining.
Out of the timeout, a driving Brunson found Bridges in the corner for a three, the team’s 3rd on 6 attempts. Brunson would miss his three point attempt, but Darryl Reynolds jumped approximately 30 feet in the air to slam home the rebound with one hand. Seton Hall would eventually break their streak of missed field goals, but Kris Jenkins answered right back with another 3 to push Nova’s lead to 13 with under 10 minutes left in the half.
As Brunson banked a jumper in the paint off the glass to push the ‘Cats lead to 15, it became clear that Seton Hall was not going to be a match for Nova’s ability to drive and dish. On the defensive end, Villanova’s help defense was finally starting to show shades of the perfection it reached during last year’s championship run.
Donte DiVincenzo kept up his hot play from last game, hitting an And1 jumper/free throw, followed by another mid-range shot on the next possession. Villanova continued to control the pace and the boards, leading the Pirates in rebounds 15-8 at the 6:45 mark. It was a group effort on the boards, with Briges pacing the team at 5. Nova was simply outplaying their opponent in every aspect, leading 27-10.
The teams would trade missed shots out of the timeouts before Paschall picked up his second personal foul on an offensive charge. He was the first Wildcat to 2 fouls in the first half. Nova continued to use a combination of defenses and their 1-2-2 press to keep Seton Hall off their game and force them into contested shots.
Just when the Pirates were able to start cutting into the Nova lead, they committed two quick fouls to put the Cats into the Bonus. Jenkins would take advantage hitting both attempts from the line to push the Nova lead back to 16. Seton Hall would get 2 back on the other end, but a patented Jenkins shot fake would give Khadeen Carrington his second foul of the half and send Kris to the line with 3:48 remaining and the Cats leading 29-15.
Out of the media timeout, Jenkins would hit both free throws to more than double Seton Hall’s point total at 31-15. Despite still winning on the boards, Seton Hall was able to pick up 3 offensive rebounds on a single possession before finally converting at the rim. On the other end, Reynolds was able to bring down an offensive board and was fouled in the process, sending him to the line where he made both ends of a 1-1. Seton Hall was able to hit from deep on the other end, as they continued to cut into the Nova lead with just under 2 minutes to go in the half, trailing 33-20.
The Pirates continued their late surge from behind the arc, hitting another deep ball to cut the lead to 10. But Josh Hart was able to answer with a wide open corner three of his own. Seton Hall would have the final shot of the half, a deep three off a bobbled hand-off. But their luck from deep finally ran out as it went clanking off the rim. Villanova went into the locker room leading 36-23 at halftime.
Out of halftime, Brunson was able to grab another steal for the Cats. While he missed the layup on the other end, Reynolds was there to slam it home. Carrington was able to go 1 of 2 from the line after a Jenkins foul. On the other end, Villanova continued to extend their possessions with offensive rebounds, this time resulting in a Brunson three.
That’s when it was time to kick off the Josh Hart show. First, he stole the ball on the next possession and ran it all the way back for an easy dunk. Hart was then fouled hard after another steal on the next possession, and answered with a floater in the lane to push Nova’s lead to 21, the largest of the game. But Hart still wasn’t done as again, on the next possession, he drew an offensive foul to give the Cats the ball again. Seton Hall was forced to call timeout, but the route was on as Villanova led 45-24 with 16:48 remaining in the game.
Out of the timeout, Paschall hit Nova’s 7th three of the game to double Seton Hall’s score, but the Pirates were able to answer with a two on the other end. Jenkins answered with a three of his own. Then, in the biggest moment of the game, VUHoops correspondent Brendan Reilly saved Donte DiVincenzo from flying into the stands at the 15:15 mark. I’ll wait while you check your DVRs for my big moment of unquestioned heroism. :) Nova’s lead had ballooned to 25 with the score of 51-26.
Out of the timeout, the teams traded a few empty possessions before DiVincenzo drove the baseline and threw down a huge dunk that brought the Nova faithful to their feet. Brunson then would hit a pair of free throws to extend the lead to 26, but Seton Hall was starting to find their way into the paint for easy baskets. Josh Hart would miss a wide open corner three, but he’d end up with the loose ball and drive the lane for a layup. Paschall would continue the scoring with a layup of his own, and with 11:50 left in the game, Nova led 59 to 31.
Villanova continued to pour it on as Jenkins hit a three from the top of the arc to put the Cats up by 31. After a 10 second violation by the Pirates, Jenkins hit another three, the team’s 10th and his 4th, to push the lead to 34. With just over 10 minutes still in the game, this one was already over.
Seton Hall was finally able to end Nova’s 10-0 run with a basket at the rim, but we were getting into too little too late territory. Villanova was leading in points off turnovers 22-9, and was a perfect 9-9 from the line compared to Hall’s 3-7. As the Cats continued to rack up rebounds and points, all Seton Hall could hope for was to keep it respectable. They finally got the Wildcat lead back under 30, but Mikal Bridges hit his second three of the night to push Villanova’s lead back up to 31 with 7:20 remaining in the game.
Villanova came out of the media timeout in a zone defense, leading to a Mikal Bridges steal and layup off a Brunson assist. Josh Hart would get a steal on the next possession and hit Brunson in the corner for three. And then Jenkins would get another steal before the Cats finally missed. It was just one of those nights where the #1 team was going to throw their weight around.
Dylan Painter made his way into the game just under the 4 minute mark as the Nova faithful started to head for the brand new parking structure. Painter got a huge cheer from the student section after grabbing a rebound, but he couldn’t quite get his hands on an offensive rebound that would have been a put back slam. Painter had another shot at points when he wound up with the ball wide open 10 feet from the feet, but was unable to finish after driving through traffic to the rim. Finally, the bench was cleared as ever Wildcat saw the floor in the final seconds of the Big East beat-down. Villanova closed out the easy victory 76-46.