Instant Replay: No. 1 Villanova 93, Marquette 81

Instant Replay: No. 1 Villanova 93, Marquette 81

BOX SCORE 

Villanova responded to its first loss of the season just about perfectly.

Three days after their program-record 20-game win streak was snapped at Butler, the No. 1 Wildcats cruised to a 93-81 win over Marquette in front of 16,891 fans at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night.

Kris Jenkins led the way with a season-high 23 points for Villanova (15-1 overall, 3-1 Big East), which shot a blistering 65 percent from the field and 61 percent from three-point range. The Wildcats were shooting over 80 percent in the second half late in the game before head coach Jay Wright went to his bench and the Golden Eagles made the final score look closer than it was.

Markus Howard led Marquette (10-5, 1-2) with 21 points.

Leading by 11 at halftime, Villanova opened the second half with 11 straight points, including three straight three-pointers, to turn the game into a rout.

Big men on campus
Jenkins, who shot 7 for 11 from the field and 6 for 9 from three-point range, was joined by three other ’Nova players in double figures. Fellow star senior Josh Hart had 19 points and seven assists, Jalen Brunson scored 16, and Mikal Bridges finished with 15 points, shooting a perfect 4 for 4 from the field, 3 for 3 from three-point range and 4 for 4 from the foul line.

Aside from Howard, Katin Reinhardt (15 points), Sam Hauser (13 points) and Jajuan Johnson (12 points) hit double figures for Marquette.

By the numbers
• Villanova set a season high with 24 assists.

• Both teams made 15 free throws but Marquette did it on only 17 attempts while Villanova did it on 22 attempts.

• Villanova shot 18 for 26 and Marquette 12 for 32 from inside the three-point arc.

First half
Villanova came roaring out of the gate, making its first six shots and eight of its first nine en route to a 23-13 lead.

The Golden Eagles made some threes to hang around but had a rough end to the half when head coach Steve Wojciechowski erupted at the refs and was whistled for a technical foul and ’Nova scored the next six points to take a 44-33 lead into halftime.

Wojciechowski may have had good reason to be upset. Marquette didn’t get to the foul line until the final minute of the first half. But the Golden Eagles were more hurt by shooting 5 of 15 from inside the three-point arc. 

Villanova shot 65 percent in the first half and 60 percent from three-point range.

WFC Dominance
Villanova is now 14-2 at the Wells Fargo Center since the start of the 2012-13 regular season.

The Wildcats have an all-time record of 47-34 in the building, winning 37 of its last 56 games. Saturday’s game was their first of four there this season.

Up next
Villanova has another tough home test, taking on Xavier at the Pavilion on Tuesday night.

Marquette hosts Seton Hall the same night.

Penn State men's hockey ranked No. 1 for first time in program history

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Penn State men's hockey ranked No. 1 for first time in program history

At 16-2-1, Penn State's men's hockey team is ranked first in the nation for the first time in program history.

The Nittany Lions have improved each of the last four years under head coach Guy Gadowsky. 

Their record by year:

      2013-14: 8-26-2
      2014-15: 18-15-4
Last season: 21-13-4
This season: 16-2-1

Penn State received 30 of 50 first-place votes in the USCHO Division I poll. Denver is ranked No. 2, followed by Boston University, Minnesota-Duluth and Massachusetts-Lowell (see USCHO poll).

Penn State was ranked fourth last week before sweeping Michigan State.

Villanova focused on learning from win over Seton Hall, not No. 1 ranking

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AP Images

Villanova focused on learning from win over Seton Hall, not No. 1 ranking

A few hours before Villanova hosted Seton Hall on Monday night, head coach Jay Wright came home and talked to his wife, Patty.

“You know you’re No. 1?” she said.

Wright didn’t react much to the news, nor did the players on the team when they found out during the pregame meal a little bit later.

“It’s not really that big of a deal this time,” Wright said. “I think we were all much more concerned with Seton Hall.”

Being No. 1 may almost be old news at this point, but thoroughly dominating good teams at the Pavilion never gets stale for the Wildcats, who cruised to a 76-46 demolition of the Pirates on the same day they regained the top spot of the rankings after a week at No. 3 (see Instant Replay).

Senior Kris Jenkins sparked the win with 16 points, shooting 4 for 6 from the three-point line and 4 for 4 from the foul line — numbers he cared far more about than the No. 1 in front of Villanova.

“That’s just a number,” Jenkins said. “We focus on getting better each and every day. We can lose our next game and we won’t be No. 1.” 

Villanova reached the No. 1 spot in the AP poll for the first time in the program’s illustrious history last season, a couple of months before winning the national title on an iconic buzzer-beater from Jenkins.

The Wildcats then spent five weeks at No. 1 this season before a 66-58 loss to Butler on Jan. 4 moved them out of the top spot — only briefly, as it turned out.

“Every time you do something first is exciting,” Wright said. “And then you learn from it. I think we learned a great lesson last year and I think it helped us this year. And we learned a lesson again when we went to Butler. So you keep learning from it, that’s what we really take from it.”

As the Wildcats said last season, the most important thing is finishing the season No. 1. And they certainly showed once again that they have the chops to repeat as national champs — a prospect that Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard called “pretty exciting” even after his team had its brains beaten in.

“That’s a tough team to play,” Willard said. “They’re the No. 1 team in the country for a reason. If you’re not clicking on all cylinders when you come here, that can happen.”

Willard went on to say that “if Josh Hart’s not the National Player of the Year, then there’s something wrong.” But against the Pirates, Hart had a modest 11 points as Villanova showed off its impressive balance with all seven players in Wright’s rotation finishing with at least eight points.

Afterwards, Wright credited his three seniors — Jenkins, Hart and Darryl Reynolds (eight points, nine rebounds) — for helping the team bounce back from a sub-optimal performance in Saturday’s 70-57 win over St. John’s at Madison Square Garden.

“I’m just really fortunate to have three guys who are experienced and have been successful but are really humble,” Wright said. “We looked at the film, told them St. John’s played harder than us, and we took care of it. I think our seniors set the tone.”

Saturday’s win wasn’t the only game at the Garden on Villanova’s mind. The last time the Wildcats played Seton Hall, they suffered a stinging defeat to the Pirates in the title game of the Big East Tournament. 

Jenkins, though, insisted, that rare loss didn’t offer any extra motivation. Neither did the fact that Villanova set a record with its 47th straight victory at the Pavilion. Or that Monday’s win was the program’s 1,700th of all time.

“Numbers are something that is becoming a challenge for us,” Wright admitted. “It’s a great challenge to have. Right now, it doesn’t really do anything for us. But trust me, at the end of the year, we take great pride in that. All it can do is distract us right now. We know we have to answer the questions and you guys do a great job. I usually learn the numbers from you guys. It’s just not gonna do anything for us right now.”

Wright may not always like talking about his team’s absurdly impressive accomplishments. But he certainly loves games like this one as the Wildcats dominated all phases, from start to finish.

Deadly long-range shooting? Tenacious defense? Creating turnovers and scoring off them? Big-time hustle plays and rebounds? Electrifying dunks? Villanova did it all Monday in front of a raucous section of students back from winter break and one spectator named Ben Simmons, who took in the game from a courtside seat and applauded with everyone else.

What’s it like coaching a game like that? Is it ever hard when your No. 1 team is up by 30?

“It’s not difficult at all,” Wright said with a laugh. “It’s enjoyable. Things are going well, so you’re enjoying yourself.”