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Villanova defeats Georgia Tech to win the NIT Season Tip-Off

Wildcats improve to 6-0 after another easy victory.

NEW YORK - If you've been paying attention, then you know more than a few ranked teams have gotten knocked off by the Monmouths and Northern Iowas of the food chain in the early going.

Ask Notre Dame, or even North Carolina.

Then there's No. 8 Villanova, which hasn't lost a game in November since 2012 and now can't lose one until next year.

Of course, the Wildcats have seldom lost in any month before March the last two seasons.

Anyway, on Black Friday at the Barclays Center - which will be the site of opening-weekend NCAA Tournament games - the Wildcats improved to 6-0 with a 69-52 win over Georgia Tech (4-2) in the final of the NIT Season Tipoff.

They haven't won by fewer than 14 points.

"We have really good players," said coach Jay Wright, whose team will start December by playing its first true road game Tuesday at Saint Joseph's. "We have talented guys. At the beginning of the year, when some teams are trying to figure out who and what they are, usually the more talented team wins . . . It can change."

The Wildcats will play Oklahoma in Hawaii on the 74th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and go to Virginia the Saturday before Christmas. So we should know even more about this group soon enough.

For the time being, they're doing what they're supposed to do, even though they had to replace three starters from a 33-3 squad.

"I think we're moving in the right direction," junior Josh Hart said. "That's the biggest thing. There's (also) a lot of room to improve. But to be in the spot we're in, this early, seems encouraging. It shows how special we can be."

This is the second straight November that they won a pair in Brooklyn.

This one was tied after 11 minutes. Then the Wildcats scored 11 straight and led by seven at intermission. It was tied once more, 30-30, early in the second half. Three minutes later, Villanova was ahead by double digits. And even though reigning Big East co-Player of the Year Ryan Arcidiacono had to go to the bench with his fourth personal foul, the Wildcats never let Tech trim the deficit to under a dozen.

The Yellow Jackets were trying to win their first tournament since the 2003 preseason NIT, which was the season they went to the Final Four under onetime Villanova assistant Paul Hewitt. This was the fourth meeting, and first since 1991. It's the first time Villanova's won.

The Wildcats beat Stanford by two touchdowns in Thanksgiving's semifinal despite shooting 26 percent. This time, they finished at 52.9, 57.7 in the final 20 minutes. They went 19-for-24 from inside the arc, including 10-for-11 after intermission. And they held Tech to 35.7 overall, 2-for-14 from three.

Hart and freshman Jalen Brunson had 13 points apiece. Hart got all of his in the second half. Brunson, who shot 5-for-8, had 18 against Stanford and was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Hart joined him on all-tourney. Kris Jenkins added 12.

"It's definitely a team (award)," Brunson said. "Coach Wright and all my teammates put me in the right position to be successful. I just tried to make the right reads at the right times . . . It's been a great learning experience. Everyone's teaching me, in some way. I wanted to come here to be coached."

And what does he think he brings to the equation?

"A little bit of leadership," he said. "I let them know I'm all-in, all the time. I want to be part of something special."

Tech outrebouned Villanova, 39-28, including 11 more at the offensive end. Charles Mitchell had his sixth double-double (16 points, 11 boards) for the Yellow Jackets. But Nick Jacobs, who was shooting 57 percent, went 1-for-7.

"They do a little bit of everything (defensively), even when they go small," GT coach Brian Gregory said. "They're (still) physical. You have to be able to play through that. They do a great job of 'walling' around the basket."

Even Wright said he was "surprised" that his guys are defending this well at this point.

"We're getting stops, and we're turning people over," he duly noted.

If you've been paying attention the last two years, you'll also understand that this team's legacy will be defined by whether it can win more than once in the only tourney that counts. And that's almost four months down the road. That doesn't mean you can't appreciate the many prelims, all of which obviously are not created equal. They're still necessary steps. Might as well make the most of them.

"I don't think we played our best here," Wright conceded. "The two teams that played us took us out of our rhythm. We battled through that, and I was very proud of it."

They didn't have to play their best. It's November. And the bottom line indicates nothing's changed.