The only thing that really counted was, nobody else on Villanova's injury-plagued basketball team got hurt.

The Wildcats did lose a body before last night's game even began when coach Jay Wright suspended center Casiem Drummond for "a minor disciplinary issue." So he wasn't in uniform, or sitting on the bench. It really didn't matter. Drummond should be back for Friday night's game against Towson at the Palestra. It might not matter much then, either.

The 20th-ranked Wildcats (4-0) continued their inexorable run through the early part of their schedule, against Monmouth (0-5), in a second game of the second Philly Hoop Group Classic.

The final was 71-48, Villanova's 19th consecutive victory at the Pavilion.

The Hawks, who'd just lost at Penn by 21, scored first. And still led 5-3. Then the Wildcats went on a 37-6 spurt, as Monmouth, which lost leading scorer Whitney Coleman in its opener with a season-ending knee injury, went 11 minutes and change without a field goal.

Villanova would score 41 of the first half's last 49 points. Mike Myers Keitt, who made the opening three-pointer, was his team's top scorer at intermission, even though he hadn't scored again. Monmouth coach Dave Calloway, who uses a lot of young guys, didn't even bother to call any timeouts in the first 20 minutes. He also lost his point guard, James Hett, after 6 minutes with a twisted ankle. Not a good sign.

Monmouth, which lost to Villanova in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament, is now 0-16 against ranked teams, and 0-32 vs. the Big East.

Towson, by the way, is 3-1. But the Tigers lost by 17 to Niagara, a team Villanova just beat by 15.

It is what it is. And things will probably remain that way until the Wildcats meet up with Texas at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 9. That one can't get here soon enough. Just try to forget that Houston Baptist comes here next week.

In the meantime . . .

"I thought we played a great first half, our best of the season," Wright said. "There was attention to detail. I would have liked to have seen us come out in the second half and keep our concentration longer. That's a challenge for a really good team. We're not a really good team yet.

"[Monmouth's] trying to find their way. I feel for them. They've lost their main guy, but they continued to scrap. We have to learn to appreciate that this is a grind. Part of that is you play 40 minutes. It's tough, with kids, when you have a big lead. Naturally, they tend to relax."

As for Drummond, who he will need at some point later rather than sooner, Wright said: "It's a privilege to be part of a team. He made a little mistake. Nothing major. But we had to take that privilege away."

The Wildcats got 19 points and seven rebounds from forward Dante Cunningham, who put in a lot of work in the offseason to expand his offensive game. Corey Stokes had 18 points, seven boards and three assists. He drained five of 11 from the arc, even though his injured left thumb was still wrapped in tape. Once he hones his midrange moves, look out. Shane Clark added 10 points off of the bench. And Scottie Reynolds, who made only one of six shots, finished with nine points, six boards, four assists and three steals in 28 minutes.

Amazingly, the Wildcats didn't get called for a foul in the first 11 minutes, by which point Monmouth had a half-dozen. But again, it was mostly a detail.

"Like coach says, we have to keep getting better, every time we step on the court," said Cunningham. "Right now, we're just working on a lot of things, trying to pull it together as a team.

"The big thing is to put together a 40-minute game. That's what we need to do. Play harder and longer than the opponent."

No matter who that is. Because some day, perhaps even soon, it will indeed matter. *