VILLANOVA, Pa. — What’s the next step when you’ve already hit the greatest shot in college basketball history?
That was the challenge facing Kris Jenkins this year.
It was Jenkins whose storied jump shot gave Villanova the national championship in Houston in April with the first title-winning three-pointer in NCAA Tournament history.
After toying with the idea of turning pro, Jenkins returned to Villanova with one goal.
To become more than just a shooter. To become a complete player.
“I’ve been amazed,” Jay Wright said. “It’s not an act. He’s humble. He wants to get better.
“I’ve heard him say a number of times, ‘When I’m 30 years old, I’ll talk about [the shot], I promise you. But right now, I’m focused on getting better.’
“It’s really a mature, intelligent approach. It’s really impressive.”
Jenkins scored 20 points and added six rebounds Tuesday night to help No. 3 Villanova demolish No. 15 Xavier, 79-54, at the Pavilion (see Instant Replay).
The win was Villanova’s 46th in a row on campus, tying the Pavilion record set from 2007 through 2011.
Although Jenkins’ stats look about the same as last year, Wright said the improvement is clear if you really watch him play.
“What’s really happened is that he got in great shape early this year, and he’s doing a lot more than just scoring,” he said. “You see him making shots, but he’s also running the floor well, he’s defending the perimeter, he’s passing the ball, he’s been getting in the lane.
“We need him to be an even better Kris Jenkins than he’s been in the past.”
Where is there to go when you’ve hit perhaps the most celebrated shot in college basketball history?
Jenkins spent the offseason pondering that.
“As long as you play the game, you can always improve,” Jenkins said. “I guarantee you, every guy on our team feels that way, or they're not going to be here. They just want to learn every day and get better.”
Jenkins made 5 of 10 shots Tuesday and 4 of 8 from three. Josh Hart added 20 points, six boards and five assists, Jalen Brunson had 11 points, six assists and no turnovers, and redshirt freshman Donte DiVincenzo contributed 10 points, four boards and three assists.
Jenkins, who had 23 points and four rebounds in Villanova’s win over Marquette on Saturday, now has consecutive Big East games with 20 or more points and four or more rebounds for the first time in his career.
But it wasn’t the scoring or the shooting that impressed Wright.
It was the stuff that can’t be measured in the box score.
“It’s a gradual thing, becoming a more complete player, just doing the little things on the floor,” Wright said.
“Last year, you wouldn’t see him out ahead of the break or going to the rim off one foot. But he’s in such good shape now, he’s getting used to doing that, and he’s learning how to expand his game.”
This isn’t as deep a Villanova team as the one that won the 2016 national championship, so Wright needs more out of Jenkins.
“Kris can do a lot of other things when he’s not making shots,” Wright said. “He’s playing well defensively, he’s rebounding and he’s our vocal leader, too.
“Earlier in his career, if he wasn’t making shots, he wasn’t doing a lot. But now he’s just becoming complete, and as he grows, it’s just going to make our team better.”
Against Xavier, Villanova fell behind by eight points early. It was 24-16 after 6½ minutes, and Xavier had made 5 of 10 shots from three.
Then Jenkins buried a couple deep jumpers, Villanova turned it up defensively, Xavier went 5½ minutes without a basket and Villanova outscored the nationally ranked Musketeers, 63-26, over a 24-minute span.
After shooting 5 for 10 from three to open the game, Xavier missed 20 of its last 21 attempts from behind the line.
“I’m concerned [about the slow start],” Wright said. “We did not start the game with energy, and they did. That’s a good team. They’ve won a lot of big games, a lot of big games on the road. They came in ready to go, and we did not.
“About halfway through the first half, Kris hit some shots and we got going defensively. I thought Donte DiVincenzo and Eric Paschall coming off the bench did a great job getting our defense going.”