By Harry Allison
Home is where the Hart is for Villanova.
After suffering its first loss of the season last Monday in Hawaii to Oklahoma, Josh Hart scored 18 points and Ryan Arcidiacono had 14 to help No. 9 Villanova roll past La Salle 76-47 yesterday at the Pavilion.
The Wildcats (8-1) had a miserable shooting performance in a 78-55 loss to No. 7 Oklahoma.
“They’re not shaken confidence-wise. We just learned a lot from it,” coach Jay Wright said.
Villanova found its long-range touch, hitting 13 3-pointers, and had 24 assists on 28 baskets.
The Wildcats have now won 12 straight games in the Big 5, round-robin play among five city Division I teams that dates to 1955.
At the Pearl Harbor Invitational in Honolulu, the Wildcats missed 28 of 32 3-pointers against Oklahoma. They had made 11 of 19 when they doubled up the Explorers 66-33 midway through the second half.
Villanova hasn’t lost two straight games since March 2013.
“I was sick when I saw them lose that game,” La Salle coach John Giannini said. “Really good teams, and we’re to that point now, just don’t lose back-to-back games very often.”
Hart connected on two straight 3s midway through the first half to open a double-digit lead, and Villanova dominated from there.
Villanova holds the city series record with 14 straight victories from 2004-05 to 2007-08. The Explorers beat the Wildcats three seasons ago, the year they reached the Sweet 16.
La Salle (4-4) hasn’t made the postseason since that remarkable run and played like a team on the brink of extending that streak another season.
“This is kind of our transition year,” Giannini said. “We’ve transitioned from those guys that we won a lot of games with to a new core group. We’re a couple of players, probably, short right now.”
Jordan Price, who entered third in the nation in scoring at 25.9 points per game, led the Explorers with 16 points on 6-of-17 shooting.
The Wildcats reached 70 points with 6:30 left and have won 36 consecutive games when scoring at least that many.
Hart, Jalen Brunson and Arcidiacono opened the second half with 3-pointers that turned a comfortable lead into a full-blown rout. Brunson, the highly touted freshman guard, scored 13 points.
“We didn’t play the way we usually play in Hawaii,” Arcidiacono said. “I think getting back here, we had a couple of great practices this week and were able to get back to what we do.”
Without much reason for sustained excitement, Daniel Ochefu snapped the crowd out of a funk with three rim-shaking dunks. He also grabbed 10 rebounds.
Inside or outside, the Explorers were no match for a Villanova team again stamped the Big East favorite.
“We just re-established ourselves with Villanova basketball,” Arcidiacono said.