NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 18: Kris Jenkins #2 of the Villanova Wildcats attempts a shot as Myles Powell #13 of the Seton Hall Pirates defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at Prudential Center on February 18, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

No. 2 Villanova scores decisive road win at Seton Hall

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Villanova was ruthlessly efficient on offense and used a balanced effort as the No. 2 Wildcats ran past Seton Hall, 92-70, on Saturday afternoon for a Big East road win. The win gives the Wildcats at least a share of the Big East regular season title, which they’ve won for four consecutive seasons.

Shooting 67 percent (33-for-49) from the field and 57 percent (12-for-21) from three-point range, the Wildcats had big days from Jalen Brunson (22 points), Kris Jenkins (22 points) Josh Hart (19 points) and Mikal Bridges (15 points).

Brunson was a perfect 7-for-7 from the floor while Bridges helped close the game with three late three-pointers as he was 8-for-10 from the field.

This was the type of offensive showing that makes you believe that Villanova (26-2, 13-2) should be a No. 1 seed come March and if their offense plays this well then they’re going to be nearly impossible to stop. Brunson is the type of efficient and intelligent lead guard who is happy to run clock with any kind of late lead while Hart and Jenkins aren’t afraid to take big shots late in the shot clock. When others like Bridges and Donte DiVincenzo also provide offense then Villanova has one of the most balanced groups in the nation.

With home games against Butler and Creighton and a road game at Georgetown, it won’t be easy for Villanova down the stretch in conference play but they should also feel pretty good about getting the Big East regular-season crown.

Seton Hall (16-10, 6-8) missed out on a valuable opportunity to score a win over top-five opponent in this one. The Pirates were led by Khadeen Carrington (22 points) while big man Angel Delgado (19 points, 12 rebounds) registered another double-double.

While Seton Hall would have loved a win over Villanova after picking off Creighton at home, they do get more chances to score wins over potential NCAA tournament teams. Kevin Willard’s team still hosts Xavier and ends the regular season on the road at Butler before the Big East Tournament.

Jay Wright wins No. 500 as No. 2 Villanova wins convincingly at No. 24 Xavier

of the Villanova Wildcats during the game against Xavier Muskateers at Cintas Center on February 11, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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Villanova used a balanced effort as the No. 2 Wildcats beat No. 24 Xavier, 73-57, for a Big East road win on Saturday afternoon.

The win is head coach Jay Wright’s 500th as he saw the Big East leaders play a complete game.

Point guard Jalen Brunson had a solid game with 17 points, seven assists and only two turnovers as Villanova shot 51 percent (27-for-52) from the field and only committed six turnovers. Donte DiVincenzo also continued his strong recent stretch of play by finishing with 17 points.

Kris Jenkins (12 points), Josh Hart (11 points) and Mikal Bridges (10 points) also finished with double-figures for Villanova.

When Villanova’s offense is playing like this they are going to be one of the toughest teams in the country to stop. Brunson and DiVincenzo being the leaders in this one is particularly noteworthy since those are two of the players Villanova will rely on in March compared to last season. We know that Josh Hart is a player of the year candidate and Jenkins and Bridges are also steady but adding more perimeter firepower from those guys makes Villanova really tough to defend.

With DiVincenzo scoring like this there are not many weak links in the Villanova lineup.

Xavier (18-7, 8-4) looked lifeless by the end of this one as Trevon Bluiett (0 points) had an ankle injury and the team’s offense struggled. Rashid Gaston had a solid game with 23 points and 10 rebounds while J.P. Macura added 17 points and seven rebounds.

The Musketeers outrebounded Villanova 42-27 but the only shot 35 percent from the field and 28 percent from three-point range.

This loss snaps a four-game winning streak for Xavier as they begin a three-game road trip in which they need to get healthier and figure out the offensive issues.

Hart scores 25, No. 1 Villanova beats Providence 78-68

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 21: The Villanova Wildcats men's basketball team greet the fans, as is the tradition at the end of the court, with "Vs" raised for Villanova, after the win over the Providence Friars at the Wells Fargo Center on January 21, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Villanova won 78-68. (Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) Josh Hart saw an opportunity to drive with the ball and kept attacking the basket instead of shooting jumpers.

Hart scored 25 points, Kris Jenkins had 19 and No. 1 Villanova beat Providence 78-68 on Saturday.

The defending national champion Wildcats (19-1, 7-1 Big East) have won five straight since their only loss at Butler on Jan. 4 temporarily knocked them out of the No. 1 spot in The AP Top 25.

Hart tied a season-low with only two 3-pointers attempted and made both. He scored seven of his 10 baskets on layups. Villanova only tried 17 shots from 3-point range, making seven. The Wildcats entered the game averaging 25 attempts from beyond the arc.

“They do a great job of taking away 3s,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said of Providence. “Our guys did a good job of reading the defense and not taking contested 3s. Josh is as relentless at attacking the basket as anybody I’ve ever seen.”

Hart finished 10 of 16 from the field.

“Just be aggressive is something Coach always says,” Hart said. “If they step up, make the right pass, If they don’t, you score.”

Rodney Bullock had 17 points and Jalen Lindsey added 14 for Providence (13-8, 3-5).

The Friars were coming off consecutive wins over Seton Hall and Georgetown but couldn’t compete with Villanova.

An 8-0 run to start the second half gave Villanova its biggest lead to that point, 43-31. Mikal Bridges got it started with a layup and jumper, Jenkins hit a jumper and Hart made another layup.

“Villanova took advantage of every mistake we made,” Friars coach Ed Cooley said. “The game was lost on the first five possessions of the second half.”

Jalen Brunson and Jenkins nailed consecutive 3s from almost the same spot to extend it to 60-43 midway through the second half and the Wildcats led by 20 at one point.

But Providence wouldn’t go away. Lindsey hit three straight 3s to cap a 13-2 run that got the Friars within 66-57 with 5:05 left.

Then Villanova scored the next three baskets, including a nifty, driving layup by Brunson to put it away.

“They have a great defensive team, they’re gritty and tough,” Cooley said.

Hart hit a 3-pointer to start the scoring and Villanova never trailed. The Friars tied it at 12 midway through the first half before Villanova went on a 10-0 run capped by Bridges’ 3-pointer.

BIG PICTURE

Providence: G Kyron Cartwright scored 12 points before he left the game with a stomach bug in the second half. … Isaiah Jackson also scored 12. … The Friars are 2-14 all-time against the top-ranked team. … They are 38-60 vs. Villanova. .. . The teams meet again on Feb. 1 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

Villanova: Bridges had 15 points and Brunson added 13. … The team shot 51.7 percent (30 for 58). … The Wildcats played the second of four games at the home of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, who host New Jersey on Saturday night. They are 15-2 at the Wells Fargo Center since the 2012-13 season. … Junior G Phil Booth, who led all scorers with 20 points in the national championship game last April, missed his 17th straight game because of inflammation in his left knee.

SPREADING THE LOVE

“Kris is rare,” Hart said of his teammate. “He’s a gifted scorer who gets more excited at other people’s success and that shows a lot about his character.”

UP NEXT

Providence will host St. John’s on Wednesday.

Villanova visits Marquette on Tuesday.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.

Jenkins, Brunson, lead No. 1 Villanova past Seton Hall 76-46

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VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) Kris Jenkins scored 16 points and Jalen Brunson added 13 to lead No. 1 Villanova to a 76-46 win over Seton Hall on Monday.

The Wildcats (18-1, 6-1 Big East) looked every bit like a team that could win back-to-back national championships 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.

Led by four 3s from Jenkins, the Wildcats set a school record 47 straight wins at the Pavilion. Under coach Jay 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.

Four takeaways from No. 1 Villanova beating No. 10 Creighton

OMAHA, NEBRASKA-DECEMBER 31:  during their game at the CenturyLink Center on December 31, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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No. 1 Villanova continued its unbeaten season and stretched its win streak to 20 games as they outlasted N0. 10 Creighton for a 80-70 Big East road win.

Here are four takeaways from the Wildcats’ win on Saturday.

1. Nothing is going to fluster Villanova: Early in the game, the Wildcats found themselves down 19-9 and 24-14. Three-pointers weren’t falling and the underrated Creighton fanbase was loud and engaged. It didn’t bother Villanova one bit.

The Wildcats heated up from the perimeter and sophomore Jalen Brunson played one of the best games of his college career, going for a career-high 27 points and coming up with a big steal late in the game.

Villanova already has two closers in Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins. Hart can get shots late in games and get points when Villanova needs them while Jenkins is a great second option who isn’t afraid to take any shot. If you add in Brunson playing this well? You can see why Villanova is still unbeaten and sitting at No. 1 at this point in the season.

2. Villanova finishing the regular season unbeaten is picking up steam: Villanova might have just won the toughest possible test they’ll receive by winning at Creighton on Saturday.

Villanova will still get a solid test at Butler during their next game but the Bulldogs just lost to St. John’s on the road and had to deal with a scary flight situation on the way home. We don’t know if Butler is mentally prepared to hang with the defending national champions.

That means Villanova only has tough road games at Seton Hall and Xavier if they beat Butler next game and the schedule looks more-and-more favorable for them to finish unbeaten. Obviously, the Wildcats have to avoid slip-ups against lesser opponents and still beat the Big East’s beat teams at home. There’s an intriguing non-conference clash with Virginia that also looms for the Wildcats.

But we need to start looking at Villanova potentially going unbeaten as a serious threat since this team has some good road wins at Purdue and Creighton in which a lot of other teams would have folded.

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3. Creighton remains a solid Big East threat: We shouldn’t forget about the Bluejays just because they lost this one at home. Creighton is still going to be a premier team in the Big East with a great chance at a top-4 seed in the NCAA tournament as their potent offense puts them in any game.

The backcourt of Mo Watson Jr., Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas is a quality trio while center Justin Patton has improved so much over the course of the season. Senior forward Cole Huff remains an intriguing forward who can stretch the floor or go in the mid-post and score on turnaround jumpers.

Creighton still has to figure out how to get stops in close games like this one but they at least traded punches with the champion for 10 out of 12 rounds of a prize fight. They ultimately fell short in this one but Creighton hasn’t reached its ceiling yet — which is fun to think about.

4. Creighton goes as Mo Watson goes: One of the interesting things about Creighton’s loss to Villanova was seeing how this team looked with and without Mo Watson Jr.

Watson played most of the game but he did battle foul trouble in both halves before eventually fouling out during Creighton’s rally with a few minutes left. With Watson playing at his best, he’s one of the finest floor leaders in the country as he sets up others for shots while also handling pressure and limiting turnovers.

But you have to wonder if Watson is afraid to look for his shot sometimes. Against Villanova, Watson played his typical pass-first style but he passed up multiple open looks that he could have taken instead of making dangerous passes to guarded teammates.

Villanova is a different caliber of team defensively so Watson needs to look for his own offense more than usual when facing a team like them. But for the Bluejays to also be in this game despite an average game from Watson also shows how good they can be if he’s playing at his best.

Josh Hart leads No. 1 Villanova past No. 23 Notre Dame

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 10: Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats drives to the basket as Bonzie Colson #35 and Martinas Geben #23 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish defend during the first half of a college basketball game at Prudential Center on December 10, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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Josh Hart put on a show on Saturday as the senior willed No. 1 Villanova to a 74-66 win over No. 23 Notre Dame.

The matchup of unbeatens in New Jersey was tight throughout, but Hart put together one of the best performances any player will have all season, finishing with a career-high 37 points, 11 rebounds and four assists as Hart looked completely unstoppable.

With most of Villanova’s roster struggling on the offensive end, Hart took it upon himself to take over the second half. The Wildcats (10-0) only shot 25 percent (4-for-16) from three-point range but Hart’s aggressiveness attacking the basket was the difference. Hart finished 10-for-14 from the field and went 14-for-14 from the free-throw line as he put together the signature performance that could eventually help land him Player of the Year honors.

Notre Dame (9-1) put together a strong first half to jump out to a 41-36 halftime lead but the Irish’s offense didn’t perform at the same level in the second half. The first half saw a tremendous effort from junior point guard Matt Farrell as he torched the Villanova defense for 12 points and six assists in the game’s opening half.

Villanova’s defense made halftime adjustments and did a much better job of defending ball screens and forcing turnovers as Farrell and Notre Dame’s offense was slowed down in the second half. Farrell finished with 18 points but he didn’t pick up any assists in the second half as he finished with six. Steve Vasturia also added 18 points for Notre Dame while Bonzie Colson chipped in 11 points.

This win was a good one for Villanova because they were able to beat a tough opponent when most of the roster wasn’t performing up to standard expectations. The Wildcats definitely don’t want to rely on Hart that much during most games but the Villanova defense deserves credit for performing better in the second half after looking very poor at times during the first. Eric Paschall also provided a really nice lift for Villanova off the bench as he went 4-for-4 from the field, finishing with eight points and giving good energy on the defensive end.

Free-throw shooting was also an important factor in this one as Villanova was 20-for-22 from the charity stripe. With their ability to close out games at the line while having perhaps college basketball’s best closer in Hart, Villanova is looking like the toughest defending national champion we’ve seen since the back-to-back Florida titles 10 years ago.