'More complete' Kris Jenkins helps No. 3 Villanova blow away No. 15 Xavier

'More complete' Kris Jenkins helps No. 3 Villanova blow away No. 15 Xavier

BOX SCORE

VILLANOVA, Pa. — What’s the next step when you’ve already hit the greatest shot in college basketball history?

Get better.

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.”

Fastbreak Friday: Villanova to face pesky Providence Friars

Fastbreak Friday: Villanova to face pesky Providence Friars

CSN anchor/reporter Amy Fadool and producer Sean Kane get you set for all of the weekend's local college basketball games with Fastbreak Friday. Look for this column every Friday during the college basketball season.

Providence (13-7, 3-4 Big East) at No. 1 Villanova (18-1, 6-1 Big East), Saturday at noon

AF: This is a first. In the three seasons that I have been privileged to co-author this column, I've never written about Villanova. Today, that drought ends. Thank you to all who made this possible, which really is just one person: Sean Kane. 

I think one of the reasons that he relinquished his iron grip, just for one week, is that a new, young fan is now on board with this Villanova team and will be attending his first Wildcats game this weekend. When I say that our 2-year-old son is a fan, that may be understating it a little bit. He knows the entire roster, from Josh Hart to Donte DiVincenzo, and every player in between. He knows the fight song, and proudly belts out V for Villanova. Of course, I'm proud of my son. I do wish he could sneak in a few bars of "On, On U of K" or know one other Kentucky player besides Malik Monk. But that's enough of the background of why I finally broke through and am writing about Villanova this week.

The Wildcats returned to the No. 1 ranking this week as they welcome Providence to the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday. The Friars have given Jay Wright's teams fits over the past few seasons. You don't need to look much farther than last year when you check the numbers of a Ben Bentil or Kris Dunn. In fact, in the last three seasons, Villanova has lost one home game, and almost a year ago exactly that loss came courtesy of Providence. On Jan. 24, 2016, Bentil owned the low post and poured in 31 points, while the high-low game was working to perfection because Dunn racked up 14 assists. Of course, neither Dunn nor Bentil are on this year's Providence squad and that is a good thing for 'Nova.

The Friars come into this game on a short, two-game winning streak, but that's bigger than it may seem. Before that, they dropped five of their previous six games, including a heart-breaking one-point loss to DePaul.

Nothing seems to get Providence back on track better than Georgetown, already sweeping the season series with the Hoyas. Ed Cooley's team seems to do this every year — have a lull only to explode in March. The Friars did it three years ago, when Villanova crushed them by 30 in January, only to see Providence steamroll its way through the Big East Tournament. So I'm never ready to count out a Cooley team. 

But Villanova is rolling after it's lone loss of the year, falling to Butler on the road after a spectacular performance at Creighton. Sean wrote in this very column last week that the Wildcats needed to get more from their bench, specifically DiVincenzo. No, I don't think Donte reads this (though he should; it's fun!), but it was as if he did. In the decisive victory over Seton Hall this week, DiVincenzo posted 10 points, two rebounds and a monster block in 29 minutes of work, a solid effort off the bench. 

In the game before, at St. John's last weekend, DiVincenzo had starter-like numbers in a two-man bench effort with Eric Paschall. DiVincenzo tallied a career-high 19 points in the win at the Garden. And if the Wildcats are getting numbers near that from him, they should start thinking about a return trip to the Final Four. 

March is all about depth. Hart is going to get his. But you need other players to step up (see: Phil Booth in the title game). DiVincenzo could be that guy for Wright this year. This team certainly looks primed to go far in March. 

The spotlight on the Wells Fargo Center will shine on the Wildcats and another win. 

Villanova 80, Providence 66

La Salle (11-5, 5-1 A-10) at VCU (14-5, 4-2 A-10), Sunday at 2 p.m.

SK: Which city team has the longest winning streak? It's not top-ranked Villanova. The correct answer would be the La Salle Explorers, winners of five straight games and seven of their last nine. The good times kept rolling Thursday night with a 91-83 victory over Davidson at Tom Gola Arena. 

Four different Explorers scored 12 or more points in the win, and the one starter who didn't — junior Demetrius Henry — provided three critical baskets in the closing minutes.

Henry's contributions aside, the night belonged to Jordan Price. The senior guard scored 29 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Price knocked down 4 of 6 three-point attempts and went 7 of 8 from the foul line. The Explorers' leader is hitting his stride, averaging 26 points in the last two games while shooting 72 percent from the field.

La Salle now sets its sights on a Sunday showdown at VCU, which has a 14-5 record under second-year head coach Will Wade. The Rams will be hungry for a win, having dropped back-to-back road games at Davidson and Fordham. Wade has done an admirable job maintaining the success of the VCU program following the departure of Shaka Smart to Texas following the 2014-15 season. The Rams advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament a year ago and have a good shot at making their way into the Field of 68 again this season.

The Explorers shouldn't be phased by VCU's raucous homecourt advantage. La Salle won in double overtime in its last trip to Richmond against VCU two years ago.

I can honestly see this game going either way, and would be surprised if things weren't decided in the final minutes. But I'm riding the hot hand with the Explorers and Price. La Salle is a confident team right now; look for them to figure out a way to win a sixth straight game on Sunday.

La Salle 81, VCU 78

Pennsylvania (6-8, 0-3 Ivy League) at Saint Joseph's (8-9, 2-4 A-10), Saturday at 7 p.m.

AF: The Quakers are in the midst of a tough stretch. They opened up Ivy League play with rival Princeton two weeks ago, and it started a three-game losing streak — first to the Tigers, then home losses to Yale and Brown. But it's not as if Penn hasn't been in these games. In the loss to Brown, the Quakers cut it to just a two-point deficit with under eight minutes to play, but a great defensive stand by the Bears led to Penn's missing its next seven shots. 

Next up for Steve Donahue, a Big Five matchup with Saint Joseph's, a team also reeling a bit. 

In it's most recent game, a five-point loss at UMass, St. Joe's shot 32 percent, including an abysmal 26 percent in the second half. 

Once again, the Hawks did get a solid effort from James Demery. The junior had a career-high 11 rebounds to go with his team-high 19 points in the loss. One would think that if Phil Martelli keeps getting efforts like that from Demery, the Hawks will break through on a win soon. They are just short-handed with injuries right now.

This game will be played at the Palestra, which contrary to a silly Duke tweet this week, is the greatest home court in college basketball. Fun fact: Penn has enjoyed more success against Saint Joseph’s than any other Big 5 opponent in recent years, with three wins over the last six meetings.

But I don't know if that fun fact continues this weekend. Both teams are playing with a little desperation, and I think that the shooters for the Hawks will step up in this one.

St. Joseph's 62, Penn 60

Drexel (7-12, 1-5 CAA) at UNC Wilmington (18-2, 7-0 CAA), Sunday at 4 p.m.

SK: To say this is a tall order for Drexel would be an understatement. The Dragons have dropped six of their last seven games, including a 20-point loss at Elon Thursday night. Meanwhile, UNC Wilmington enters Sunday's game with an 18-2 record and a perfect 7-0 mark in CAA play. The Seahawks' two losses this season came at Clemson and against a very good Middle Tennessee State team.

The UNC Wilmington program has enjoyed a remarkable turnaround under third-year head coach Kevin Keatts, who previously served as Rick Pitino's assistant at Louisville. The Seahawks won 25 games and made it to the NCAA Tournament last year, losing a tightly contested game to Duke in the first round. After establishing themselves as the class of the CAA once again this season, it would come as a major surprise if they're not back in the Big Dance this March. 

UNC Wilmington has three players averaging 15 points or more — C.J. Bryce (17.5), Chris Flemmings (15.9) and Denzel Ingram (15.5). The Seahawks simply have too much firepower for a Drexel team struggling to find its way under first-year head coach Zach Spiker. For the Dragons' sake, I hope I'm wrong, but I don't see this being much of a contest.

UNC Wilmington 77, Drexel 59

Prediction records
Sean Kane: 18-4
Amy Fadool: 13-7

Delaware avenges 36-point loss with upset of Northeastern

Delaware avenges 36-point loss with upset of Northeastern

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, Del. -- Freshman Ryan Daly scored 27 points and Delaware avenged its worst loss of the season, upsetting Northeastern 69-62 on Thursday night for the Blue Hens' first Colonial Athletic Association win of the season.

Cazmon Hayes added 13 points and Eric Carter 11 for Delaware (8-12, 1-6), which snapped a six-game losing streak that had included a 36-point loss, 90-54, to the Huskies on Jan. 5.

T.J. Williams scored 28 points, the only Huskies player to reach double figures. Northeastern (12-7, 5-2) lost its second straight after an eight-game winning streak.

Three-pointers by Devonne Pinkard and Daly gave Delaware the lead for good at 46-41 with 11 minutes left. A 14-2 run with eight points each from Carter and Daly made it a 12-point lead with two minutes to go.

Delaware made 17 of 22 free throws to 7 of 14 for Northeastern.