Fans and teammates sang “Happy Birthday” to Final Four star Kris Jenkins, who had 12 points despite an off shooting night as Villanova ran its November record the past four years to 24-0.
By Mary Cunningham
“I feel good about where we are, our path,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said last night.
The Wildcats passed their biggest test yet in staring down UCF and 7-6 center Tacko Fall for a 67-57 victory, giving Villanova an in-season tournament title for the fourth straight season — the Charleston Classic.
Josh Hart, a preseason All-America selection, scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half and was chosen the event’s MVP. He and his teammates showed their savvy in maneuvering around Fall, whose wingspan is 8 feet, 2 inches.
“It’s genius how they use him,” Wright said. “It’s hard to play them. They’re a tough team.”
The Knights anchor Fall near the basket on defense while his teammates switch through different schemes to frustrate opponents. If anyone dares to drive the lane, Fall is waiting to swat it away.
On offense, Fall is also underneath waiting for entry passes that he can efficiently jam home for dunks.
Fall made all 10 of his shots and finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds. He went 26 of 31 from the floor with 34 rebounds in three tournament games and was a constant headache for defenders.
“All I could do was make it difficult for him to get post touches,” said Darryl Reynolds, the 6-9 Villanova forward charged with fronting Fall. “You can’t block his shot because he does a good job keeping the ball high.”
Reynolds, a senior starter, finished with two points and fouled out after 26 minutes.
Still, it was the Wildcats celebrating. Fans and teammates sang “Happy Birthday” to Final Four star Kris Jenkins, who had 12 points despite an off shooting night as Villanova ran its November record the past four years to 24-0.
“It was a great way to spend my birthday,” he said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
UCF closed to 37-32 on Matt Williams’ basket with 16 minutes left. Then the Wildcats took off on a 12-3 run to extend the lead. Hart had a jumper and his only 3-pointer in the surge. The Knights never got within single digits after that.
“They’ve been in that position before, you could tell,” UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said. “They made the big plays when they needed to make them.”
Villanova freshman Donte DiVincenzo had 13 points, and Jalen Brunson added 12.
Williams scored 17 points for UCF.
Wright has 359 victories at Villanova, moving past former boss Rollie Massimino into second place on the school’s all-time list among coaches. Only Al Severance with 413 stands in front of Wright.