By Sarah Berkowitz
Kris Jenkins scored 16 points and Jalen Brunson added 13 to lead the top-ranked Wildcats to a 76-46 win over Seton Hall last night the Pavilion.
The Wildcats (18-1, 6-1 Big East) played in their first game at No. 1 in The AP Top 25 poll following a one-week hiatus.
Villanova fell from the top spot to third in the poll following a Jan. 4 loss at Butler. But wins over Marquette and Xavier vaulted the Wildcats over the Kansas Jayhawks and back into the top spot.
“It’s just a number,” Jenkins said.
Led by four 3s from Jenkins, the Wildcats set a school record 47 straight wins at the Pavilion. Under Wright, Villanova has been nearly unbeatable at home for most of the last 10 years.
Seton Hall (12-6, 2-4) was just the latest to go down in front of the 177th straight sellout crowd. Villanova’s rare blemish on its national championship season was losing to the Pirates in the Big East Tournament title game.
The Wildcats took care of this one with ease. Darryl Reynolds threw down a monster dunk and Jenkins followed with a 3-pointer for a 20-7 lead. Brunson hit a 3 and Josh Hart quickly turned a steal into a dunk for a 20-point edge early in the second half. The Wildcats made 12 of 26 3-pointers and held Seton Hall to just 16 field goals.
But look beyond the box score to find what impressed Wright more than building a 36-point lead. The Wildcats were sluggish and played perhaps their worst game of the season — 20 turnovers — in a win last Saturday at St. John’s. Wright gave the Wildcats a day off and just watched film, fully expecting seniors like Jenkins and Hart would instill the message that another letdown was not what has won them three straight Big East championships.
“I hope we’re never going to have a night like that, and when we do I’m kind of surprised because we do take pride in that,” Wright said.
Lesson learned. The Wildcats never gave the Pirates the smallest chances to make this one a game.
“I thought we played really hard tonight and when you do it against Seton Hall, you know you did it,” Wright said.