VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) Kris Jenkins had etched his name in Villanova lore with the shot of all shots – The Big Shot – when he won a national championship with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Jenkins’ career didn’t stop that April night in Houston.
It’s what he’s done this season for the Wildcats that left coach Jay Wright as impressed as he was when he walked off the championship court with confetti fluttering in the air.
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”I’ve been amazed, actually,” Wright said. ”He’s humble. He wants to get better.”
Jenkins has again been a driving force for the No. 3 Wildcats, and helped keep a second straight national title in sight for the class of the Big East.
Jenkins made four 3-pointers, scored 20 points and the Wildcats beat No. 15 Xavier 79-54 on Tuesday night.
Jenkins likes to say he’ll talk about the title winner all he wants in 30 years. But as long as he’s wearing the No. 2 jersey, he won’t dwell on his defining moment.
”The thing I have to live up to is the pressure and commitment to my teammates,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins scored a season-high 23 points last week against Marquette and leads the Wildcats in 3-pointers (shooting 42 percent).
”Every shot feels the same to me,” Jenkins said. ”I think it’s good.”
Josh Hart also scored 20 points and the Wildcats (16-1, 4-1 Big East) were dominant in the second half in their first game since their five-week run at No. 1 ended with a loss last week at Butler.
Jalen Brunson scored in transition off a steal and Donte DiVincenzo and Hart each converted three-point plays midway through the second half to help bust the game open.
The Wildcats made 15 of their first 20 shots in the second half and handed Xavier (13-3, 3-1) its first Big East loss.
The Musketeers again struggled in a big game at the Pavilion. The teams split a pair of games last season, each winning at home.
But Xavier had lost its past three games at Villanova by an average of nearly 23 points and cooled after a solid start. Xavier missed 10 straight shots and 14 of 15 overall midway through the first half and lost an eight-point lead.
The national champion Wildcats showed the loss at Butler was just a blip in a season-long tune up toward March.
Brunson scored 11 and DiVincenzo added 10 to help lead Wright’s seven-deep rotation. Wright has said he wasn’t as concerned about depth issues wearing down the Wildcats because his players are so versatile.
But it’s also why Wright played his starters until the 2:40 mark and the Wildcats up 26.
Jenkins made four 3s and the Wildcats hit eight overall.
”He has bailed us out a lot over his career,” Wright said.
Edmond Sumner led the Musketeers with 11 points and they ended a six-game winning streak.
Xavier: Sumner appeared to hurt his left shoulder early in the first half and left the game for ice treatment. Sumner left last year’s game at the Pavilion on a stretcher after a hard fall just minutes into the game. ”He’s fine,” Coach Chris Mack said. ”I think.”
Villanova: The Wildcats won just the 16th game between Top 25 teams in the 30-year history of the Pavilion. The Wildcats are 13-3 and continued to boast one of the toughest home courts in hoops. The Wildcats matched a school record with their 46th straight win at the Pavilion. They don’t lose much at their on-campus gym – the other 46-game win streak came from 2007 to 2011.
Xavier G Myles Davis was scoreless in 12 minutes in his first game since he was reinstated Saturday. Davis was a leader on the Xavier team that was ranked as high as No. 5 last season, averaging 10.8 points per game. He was suspended before the start of this season while facing misdemeanor charges in court for damaging his former girlfriend’s property.
Xavier missed 11 of 12 3s in the second half and shot 29 percent overall from the floor.
”We tried to shoot our way out of trouble,” Mack said. ”It isn’t the recipe for our team.”
Xavier plays Saturday at No. 12 Butler. The Bulldogs are the only team to beat the Wildcats this season.
Villanova plays Saturday at St. John’s at Madison Square Garden
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