Hart leads No. 3 Villanova over UCF 67-57 to win Classic
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) The hundreds of Villanova fans at Charleston's TD Arena gathered with coach Jay Wright and his Wildcats to cheer their latest in-season tournament championship.
Most of them surely believe winning the Charleston Classic can lead the defending national champions to even bigger celebrations this season.
''I feel good about where we are, our path,'' Wright said Sunday night.
The Wildcats passed their biggest test yet in staring down UCF and 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall for a 67-57 victory, giving Villanova an in-season tournament title for the fourth straight season.
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.
Villanova: The Wildcats showed their resiliency and skill in battering three opponents in Charleston, all by double digits. If you're nitpicking for a deficiency, it might be a lack of height; Reynolds played center most of the weekend.
''We knew this was coming,'' Wright said.
Villanova has won three games in the past week against teams that had height advantages: No. 15 Purdue, Wake Forest and UCF.
UCF: The Knights' picture is always big with Fall, the tallest player in the game. The school says he is among the 40 tallest people in the world, too. But UCF's offense at times doesn't run through Fall, maybe because he's still developing his passing skills down low. If that happens, look for the Knights and Fall to take off as he becomes a more versatile player.
Look for Villanova to move up a spot after No. 1 Duke lost to seventh-ranked Kansas earlier this week.
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.
Villanova heads home to face the College of Charleston. After the teams spent the past four days crisscrossing each other at TD Arena, they travel to Philadelphia to play Wednesday night.
UCF begins a two-game homestand against Seattle on Saturday night.
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