Another second-half City Series takedown has pushed Villanova to the verge of Big Five history.
The 10th-ranked Wildcats (10-0) flexed their muscles again Sunday in a 73-52 rout of La Salle at the Pavilion.
Can Temple on Feb. 1 keep Villanova from winning all its Big Five games by 20 or more points?
Since the Big Five began in 1955-56, no team has done that, not even when schools played only two official Big Five games a year.
In its last two games against Big Five rivals, including a Dec. 7 takeout of St. Joseph's, Villanova has won the second half by a combined 94-51.
"They won that game over the last eight months," said La Salle coach John Giannini, referring to the physical shape of Villanova's players. "They did not get like this quickly."
Darrun Hilliard led Villanova with 21 points. Freshman bench sparkplugs Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart combined for 24 points and eight rebounds in 37 minutes, with Dylan Ennis adding seven assists and five rebounds to go with his five points off the bench.
"It's productive depth," Villanova coach Jay Wright said of his bench. "It's nice to have."
Getting to 10-0 for the first time since 2005-06, Villanova won its third straight in Big Five play. The Wildcats did it even though leading scorers JayVaughn Pinkston and James Bell combined for just 10 points. Overall, Jenkins had the only hot hand from deep, making all three of his three-point tries. His teammates combined to make 3 of 21 three-pointers.
Giannini made it clear that La Salle's early-season struggles are about more than the loss of Ramon Galloway.
"We've regressed," the coach said. "We got better this week. We had a good week of practice. We're not the same players. There's not one reason."
Giannini said that point guard Tyreek Duren "did too much" over the summer after suffering from plantar fasciitis, causing deep heel pain. Duren sat out for six weeks, then began working out with Orlando guard Jameer Nelson, as he had in recent years.
"This is the first week that he told me he is pain-free - that's good," Giannini said.
The Explorers (5-5, 0-1 Big Five) made just 1 of 13 three-pointers, and precious few mid-range jumpers. Jerrell Wright carried the offensive burden in the first half, scoring 18 of his 20 points before halftime - more than half of La Salle's 34 first-half points. 'Nova led by four at the break.
The Explorers finished with 30 points in the paint and 13 free throws, leaving just nine points for the rest of the court.
"You don't expect this," Wright said of Villanova's City Series mastery. "Sometimes our guys' not being as familiar with all this history is a good thing. Sometimes it bites us in the butt."