'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


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.”

NCAA Tournament wrap: UNC edges out Kentucky on Maye game-winner

NCAA Tournament wrap: UNC edges out Kentucky on Maye game-winner

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Luke Maye hit a jumper with 0.3 seconds left, and top-seeded North Carolina held off Kentucky 75-73 to earn the Tar Heels' second straight trip to the Final Four and 20th all-time in Sunday's showdown of college basketball's elite in the South Regional.

The Tar Heels (31-7) will play Midwest champ Oregon on Saturday in Phoenix in the national semifinal.

North Carolina took control with a 12-0 run within the final 5 minutes. Kentucky's freshmen De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk hit three quick 3s, the last two by Monk and his second with 7.2 seconds left tied it up at 73.

Theo Pinson brought the ball down, passed back to Maye. The sophomore from Huntersville, North Carolina, knocked it down for the win with his feet on the 3-point line.

The Wildcats had one last chance, but Derek Willis' inbound pass went out of bounds on the far end.

Kentucky (32-6) will miss out on the Final Four for the second straight year.

South Carolina beats Florida to reach first Final Four
NEW YORK -- It's only right that South Carolina's first trip to Final Four was earned through its defense.

A team known for a swarming zone used it effectively down the stretch to beat Florida 77-70 on Sunday and win the East Regional at Madison Square Garden.

Sindarius Thornwell scored 26 points for the seventh-seeded Gamecocks (26-10) against the fourth-seeded Gators (27-9) in the all-Southeastern Conference matchup.

South Carolina will face Gonzaga, the No. 1 seed from the West Regional, in the Final Four on Saturday at Glendale, Arizona.

"Gamecock Nation, we heard you loud and clear," coach Frank Martin roared as the team prepared to cut down the nets. "We'll see you in Phoenix."

The game was as close as expected until the final minute. There were 14 lead changes and 10 ties. The last lead change came on two free throws by Thornwell with 2:24 left that made it 65-63. Florida managed just three field goals over the final 3:55.

Thornwell, the regional MVP, followed the deciding free throws with a nice assist to Maik Kotsar for a 4-point lead. It seemed Thornwell, who scored eight straight points for the Gamecocks, was always where he needed to be including making a steal with 40 seconds left that turned into a 73-68 lead.

"I just made plays," Thornwell said. "Plays needed to be made down the stretch and I stepped up and made plays."

"Thornwell was just being Thornwell," Florida coach Mike White said of the SEC player of the year. "He's one of the best players in the country."

PJ Dozier added 17 points for the Gamecocks, Chris Silva had 13 and Kotsar 12.

It all totaled to a Final Four trip for Martin, he of the booming voice and terrifying faces.

Justin Leon had 18 points for the Gators who managed a 40-33 halftime lead on 7-for-12 shooting from 3-point range. But that was it. Florida was 0 for 14 from beyond the arc in the second half, a lot like the 0-for-17 effort the Gators had in their first meeting with South Carolina this season.

South Carolina, which forced Florida into 16 turnovers, finished 23 for 31 from the free throw line, including a 9-for-10 effort from Thornwell.

NCAA Tournament Wrap: Gonzaga reaches 1st Final Four; Oregon upsets Kansas

NCAA Tournament Wrap: Gonzaga reaches 1st Final Four; Oregon upsets Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Tyler Dorsey poured in 27 points, Dillon Brooks added 17 and plucky Oregon ended Kansas' romp through the NCAA Tournament with a 74-60 victory Saturday night that gave the Ducks their first Final Four trip in nearly 80 years.

Dylan Ennis added 12 points for the Ducks (33-5), who took the lead with 16 minutes left in the first half and never trailed again, giving coach Dana Altman his first trip to the national semifinals.

They'll face the winner of Sunday's game between North Carolina and Kentucky in Glendale, Arizona.

Player of the year front-runner Frank Mason III had 21 points in his final game for the Jayhawks (31-5), who had rolled to the Elite Eight by an average margin of 30 points. But their dream season ended with a thud just 40 minutes from campus on a night where very little went right (see full recap).

Gonzaga beats Xavier to reach 1st Final Four
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Nigel Williams-Goss scored 23 points while orchestrating Gonzaga's efficient offense, and the Zags finally shook their overrated tag by routing Xavier 83-59 on Saturday to reach the Final Four for the first time.

Gonzaga (36-1) has been dogged by criticism through the years despite winning consistently, in part for playing in a weak conference but also for never making the Final Four.

On the cusp of history, the Zags took it head on with a superb all-around game to give coach Mark Few the one missing piece of his resume.

Gonzaga found the range from the perimeter after struggling the first three NCAA games, making 12 of 24 from 3-point range. The defense, a soft spot in the past, shut down the underdog and 11th-seeded Musketeers (24-14) to win the West Region.

The Zags will face the winner between South Carolina and Florida in next week's Final Four in Arizona (see full recap).