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Villanova crushes Monmouth

WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. - Villanova finally experienced the rigors of life on the road Wednesday night. Well, not exactly.

WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. - Villanova finally experienced the rigors of life on the road Wednesday night.

Well, not exactly.

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 that marked the program's largest margin of victory in nearly 40 years.

Aside from two games in Madison Square Garden, this marked Villanova's first road contest outside the Philadelphia area this season. No matter. About half the sold-out crowd of 4,100 was made up of the school's large North Jersey alumni base.

This wasn't exactly like playing at Connecticut on Big Monday, as the Wildcats (10-1) will in four weeks.

"If we played this game at home, the place would have been dead," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "It was nice to get up here, be in a hotel, play on the road in someone else's place, and it was packed. It was a good experience for us."

The same can't be said for the hosts. Monmouth (4-8) scrapped and clawed to stay in the game over the opening five minutes. It was a glimmer of hope that was violently extinguished. In a span of about seven minutes, an 11-7 Villanova lead exploded into a 24-7 advantage.

Then it got worse for the hosts. The first half took on the feel of an exhibition as the Wildcats raced up and down the floor, with Corey Stokes hitting three three-pointers and Corey Fisher sinking an over-the-head layup while crashing to the floor.

Stokes scored 13 of his 19 points in the first half, while Fisher added 11 of his game-high 20. The Wildcats carried a 44-17 lead into the break. Stokes and Fisher were pulled from the game with 5 minutes, 29 seconds left and the Cats rolling, 71-28.

"When we got a lead, [the seniors] kept grinding and pushing everybody," Wright said. "That's starting to emerge. [Stokes and Fisher] and Antonio Pena are really starting to take over this team."

Monmouth finished the night shooting a painful 25.5 percent from the field. A 1-for-19 showing from the three-point line didn't help. Wright called the game his team's "best defensive effort of the year."

The 40-point margin matched Villanova's 103-63 victory over North Dakota on Jan. 4, 1971, as the biggest blowout in school history.

The game marked Villanova's first game on another school's campus outside the Philadelphia area. Playing with a similar schedule, the Wildcats lost their opening road games in Big East play in three of the last four years.

"We played at Penn and at La Salle [this season], which aren't trips, but they were hostile environments," Wright said. "Corey Stokes took over the Penn game and Fish had a great game and made big plays in the La Salle game. Our guys are starting to expect these two to lead and us and carry us. That's where I think our personality is starting to develop."

Mouphtaou Yarou finished with 14 points and five rebounds, while Maalik Wayns added 11 points and six assists. Cheek and Pena each grabbed eight rebounds.

Monmouth was led by Phil Wait's eight points.