WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. - Villanova put on quite a show for its North Jersey alumni Wednesday night.
Billed as the highest-ranked opponent to ever visit Monmouth's Multipurpose Athletic Center, the eighth-ranked Wildcats breezed past the hometown Hawks in a 76-36 laugher. About half the sold-out crowd of 4,100 was adorned in Villanova paraphernalia.
This wasn't exactly like playing at Connecticut on Big Monday, as the Wildcats (10-1) will in four weeks.
Monmouth (4-8) scraped and clawed to stay in the game over the first five minutes. It was a glimmer of hope that was violently extinguished. In a span of about seven minutes, a 11-7 Villanova lead exploded into a 24-7 advantage with 8 minutes, 32 seconds remaining until halftime.
Then it got worse for the hosts. The game took on the feel of an exhibition as the Wildcats raced up and down the floor, with Corey Stokes hitting a trio of three-pointers and Corey Fisher flipping in an over-the-head layup while crashing to the floor as Villanova fans "oohed" and "ahhed" in delight.
Stokes scored 13 of his 19 points in the first half, while Fisher added 11 of his game-high 20, as the Wildcats carried a 44-17 lead into the break. The two were pulled from the game with 5:29 left and a 71-28 lead on the scoreboard.
In a near-flawless first half, Villanova shot 58.6 percent from the floor, compared to a painful 6-of-26 performance from the Hawks. Monmouth finished the night with a painful shooting percentage of 25.5 percent. A 1-for-19 showing from the three-point line didn't help.
None of this came as much of a surprise. Villanova entered the game averaging over 76.8 points per game, with six players checking in at 8.0 ppg. or more. Monmouth, meanwhile, had scored less than 59 point in seven of 11 contests and didn't have a single player averaging double figures.
Villanova matched its largest margin of victory since a 103-63 victory over North Dakota on Jan. 4, 1971. The Wildcats outrebounded the Hawks by 46-36 and made 16 more field goals.
The only downside of the night for Villanova came when Dominic Cheek sank a 35-foot heave before halftime but saw it waved off because of an offensive foul. It was that kind of night.
With Villanova straying no farther from the Main Line than two games at Madison Square Garden in late November and a matchup with Delaware at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday, last night marked the Cats' first affair on another school's campus. Nearly a month and a half since opening the season against Bucknell, they finally faced the rigors of life of the road.
Well, not exactly.
Mouphtaou Yarou finished with 14 points and five rebounds, Maalik Wayns added 11 points and six assists, while Cheek and Antonio Pena grabbed eight rebounds apiece.
Monmouth was led by Phil Wait's eight points.
The Wildcats crept into the top 10 of both national polls on Monday, landing at No. 8 in the AP poll and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. They will remain there for at least another week. The team won't return to the floor until next Thursday's matchup with Temple at the Pavilion.