PITTSBURGH - With all the problems Lafayette had to deal with, stone walls around the inside, that grab bag of Villanova shooters around the perimeter - another one appeared at the scorer's table, making it practically a pile-on.
Villanova's eighth player to check in, a guy who played less than all the others in Thursday's first half of their NCAA East Regional opener, was the one who took care of things for good.
One moment, Lafayette fans who had filled Section 111 of the Consol Energy Center almost as soon as the doors opened were looking at a best-case scenario, their Leopards practically sticking around. Kris Jenkins erased the thought: a three-pointer from the left side, another from the right wing, 19 seconds apart.
That's when 21-13 turned into 27-13, eventually careening through 34-13 to 49-26 by halftime, 93-52 by the time Lafayette was done. On those two first-half plays, Lafayette lost track of a stocky 6-foot-6 man, who was absolutely on their scouting report. Jenkins may have the purest stroke on Villanova's squad.
This was yet another reminder that Villanova provides matchup nightmares no matter who is sitting in front of the scorer's table. On his scouting report, Lafayette coach Fran O'Hanlon said afterward, he circles the opposing shooters, usually two or three guys. For Villanova, he said, it was all but two guys, Daniel Ochefu and JayVaughn Pinkston.
O'Hanlon added that his players could have done a better job of switching and staying with Jenkins, since he was likely to stay out on the line. It may not have mattered, though. Just before the half, a Lafayette defender got to the three-point line but Jenkins threw a fake at him and hit a pull-up jumper from inside the lane with five seconds remaining in the half.
Watch Jenkins sometime. He may start over in the corner of the weak side. If the ball doesn't find him there, he eases out along the perimeter, gets a pass, and delivers it to a teammate, then keeps going toward the other side, along the three-point line the whole time. The temptation for opposing defenders to leave him to help out eventually can prove too great.
Jenkins actually has a better shooting percentage from three-point range than he does from inside the arc. This isn't fluky stuff. Jenkins brought his touch with him to Villanova. You heard it from the second he arrived on campus, from pickup games.
He had been the player of the year in the Washington metro area as a senior at Gonzaga Prep. Villanova coach Jay Wright pointed out the other day that Josh Hart had been runner-up that year.
"He came in with a really healthy confidence, self-confidence," Wright said. "He really has accepted and embraced his role right now."
Note the right now. Wright has vast experience understanding when in one's career a player is willing to "accept and embrace" a specific and maybe limited role.
"He knows down the line he's going to be a major go-to guy for us," Wright added, pointing out that Jenkins at one point was basically playing the center spot against Lafayette when it was the sophomore and Hart and three guards out there together. So, all circles on the Lafayette scouting report.
Later, talking to a reporter in Villanova's locker room (while a teammate shouted out, "The Dancing Bear!") Jenkins, who finished with 10 points in 19 minutes, said he doesn't think in terms of just being a shooter. If a rebound is needed, that's absolutely what he wants to provide, he said. He might not be a high flyer, but the goal is to always bring high energy. This time, Jenkins said, "the right play was for me to catch and shoot."
If that meant the end of the line for Lafayette came before halftime, all the better, Jenkins said. "When we have a chance to put the game away, we try to put the game away."