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Villanova beats UCF for Charleston Classic title

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Jay Wright had told Villanova fans the night before what they'd be interested in seeing at Sunday night's Charleston Classic title game, in case they hadn't heard.

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Jay Wright had told Villanova fans the night before what they'd be interested in seeing at Sunday night's Charleston Classic title game, in case they hadn't heard.

Tacko Fall.

When you're 7-foot-6 - every bit of 7-6, listed as one the 40 tallest humans on the planet - even the coach of the defending NCAA champs is marveling at you, and worrying about you.

Third-ranked Villanova had its way of dealing with Fall, creating enough defensive havoc to keep his touches to a minimum, seeking midrange jumpers rather than even trying the normal half-court routes to the rim. Villanova's defensive movement and its ball movement carried the night at TD Arena, 67-57.

All this was important since Central Florida's sophomore had been a huge part of things - sorry - as UCF knocked out favored Mississippi State and then host College of Charleston to reach Sunday's title game of the Charleston Classic.

"They have a great scheme with Fall, it's genius how they use him," Wright said afterward. "They change up the defenses from man-to-man to zone, he just keep covering the same area. Whether man or zone, he's doing the same thing, he's covering the same area, but the other guys are doing different things. You've got to figure it out."

Fall finished with 20 points on 10-of-10 shooting, almost all dunks, with 13 rebounds.

Darryl Reynolds called it "once in a lifetime" guarding Fall, taking a page from Villanova's own guards on how to play a much bigger man. "He catches it high, keeps it high, dunks it high," Reynolds said.

UCF first-year coach Johnny Dawkins played with both Manute Bol and Shawn Bradley when he was with the Sixers, so maybe he was meant to coach Fall.

"He has an intellectual curiosity," Dawkins said of Fall. "He wants to figure it out, he wants to be great."

There were the usual Villanova contributions split up even more evenly than usual. Josh Hart led the way with 15 points. Halfway through the second half, Villanova up 10, Kris Jenkins, Jalen Brunson, and Donte DiVincenzo each had 10 points. Hart then hit a jumper and he had nine points. Mikal Bridges hit a turnaround in the lane and he had eight.

The signature play? Maybe a Brunson back cut, leading to a pass to Bridges in the corner, another feed to DiVincenzo, a drained three. UCF couldn't get into its offense before Villanova had a steal and Bridges went in alone for a dunk, pushing the lead up, 58-41, with 5:48 left.

Jenkins, who celebrated his 23rd birthday Sunday, had 10 points before the game was 10 minutes old, twice going to the line and converting free throws after a pump fake drew a foul. Jenkins also was exceedingly active at the defensive end, grabbing an early steal for a breakaway dunk and actively helping on the inside Fall detail.

Villanova guard Phil Booth had gone through the first half of warm-ups after sitting out Friday's game with left knee discomfort that Wright said they hope is just tendinitis, coming after Booth's arthroscopic knee surgery after last season. Booth didn't take part in the second half of the warm-up and stayed on the bench once the action started.

The chess game usually involved the big man. For onlookers, Fall creates an optical illusion. Somebody 6-foot-8 guarding him looks maybe 5-11. He's added pounds to his frame and his game also keeps expanding. (Temple fans saw him last year in AAC games.) He didn't get a touch for nine possessions except for the opening tap. (Yeah, he won it.) Villanova defenders Darryl Reynolds and Eric Paschall, were doing a good job of staying in front of him. When he did get the ball in the low post, that was it, dunking ensued. Four shots, four dunks.

Despite making only 3 of 13 three-pointers, Villanova took a 35-23 lead into halftime because the Wildcats had made 9 of 17 two-pointers and all eight of their free throws. They'd also forced nine UCF turnovers, which was as much as a difference-maker as the biggest big man in college hoops.