Villanova's preseason pretty much ended last night, pretty much as expected, with an eighth straight victory for the country's 17th-ranked team, 93-57 over Houston Baptist at the Pavilion.

The Wildcats had come close to scheduling a big-name opponent that shall remain nameless. But that fell through, through no fault of Villanova's. So Houston Baptist became the opponent, because the Wildcats needed one more game and had no other options.

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And if you knew that Colin Montgomerie once golfed for the Huskies, before he became the best player never to win a major, then proceed directly to "Double Jeopardy!"

A year ago, the Huskies played 18 straight road games in their Division I debut. Coached by former Nolan Richardson assistant Ron Cottrell, they were ranked No. 1 in NAIA in 2003.

At least this season, they have played a home game already. That was a 14-point loss in their previous game, against Texas-Arlington on Saturday. They're still looking for their first win after seven tries.

If you're looking for common threads, Houston Baptist opened at Marquette (95-64). The Wildcats open their Big East season there on New Year's Day. Marquette is one of five remaining unbeatens in the conference, with Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Syracuse and Villanova (8-0).

First, though, the Wildcats get No. 8 Texas on Tuesday in New York. It's their first game outside Philadelphia.

The Wildcats were again without senior forward Dwayne Anderson, who's recovering from a stress reaction in his left foot. He played 8 minutes on Tuesday against Penn at the Palestra, but had some soreness afterward. So he was held out of this one, which made absolute sense.

With 14 minutes to go, senior forward Shane Clark came down awkwardly on his right ankle while coming down with a rebound. He left and didn't return. Again, probably more cautionary than anything. It didn't look like anything too serious, which coach Jay Wright confirmed later.

Still, at this point, you can hardly blame him for holding his breath any time something like that happens. By now, it's force of habit.

All five starters scored in double figures. Which made sense, since each of them had eight points at halftime. Scottie Reynolds, who's been struggling with his shot, was high man with a season-high 23. He went 8-for-13, 4-for-7 from the arc. He also had six assists and just a single turnover, in 30 minutes.

Corey Stokes had a career-best 22, getting half of that late. He was 7-for-11, 6-for-9.

"I'm really excited about the Scottie's been playing," Wright said. "He's been doing a good job of getting everybody else shots. Tonight, they got him shots. He's been playing well, because he's a leader. He's been doing everything. His demeanor doesn't change, at all [when he's not scoring]."

The Huskies got 22 from Baron Sauls, who made all six of his treys. Andrew Puzyk, who made four early from that distance before cooling off, added 17. Leading scorer Gordon Watt was held to seven, a dozen below his average.

"When I was a freshman or a sophomore, I would have been down [about not scoring more]," Reynolds acknowledged. "Now, I think I've matured. If I want to be a leader for the other guards, I have to set an example every night.

"If my head's down, what's Fish [Corey Fisher] and Stokes going to look at? My team's still winning. I have to have a good attitude, so they see a positive guy going out there. That's what it's all about."

The Wildcats have still not won by fewer than 13.

"We definitely need Scottie to score," Stokes said. "But he does a lot of other things. He brings a lot of positives to the team. I just believe he's a good team leader."

So, bring on those Longhorns.

"It feels good. We want to get tested," Wright said. "If it was our fourth game, I don't know if we'd be ready. We're going to know where we are. We're 8-0, and no one knows what that means. We're 17, but there could be 30 teams better than us. Or we could be better than some who are [ranked] ahead of us. It's a beginning for us."

It's the first test, of many. The preliminaries are out of the way. Finally.

"You have to be excited for every game," Reynolds insisted. "Every time you step on the floor, you have to have that mind-set. We're playing for each other, and the coaches. It doesn't matter if there's 30,000 or 300 [in the stands]. It's always been like that.

"You come to Villanova knowing what you're getting. For the program, and yourself. And that's one thing that never changes."

See you at the Garden. *