CHARLESTON, S.C. - That was the scary Villanova on Friday afternoon inside TD Arena. Didn't matter that a 'Nova starter was out resting his knee, or that Wake Forest had a pretty good offensive rhythm of its own, making half its shots, committing just four turnovers.
The Demon Deacons still lost by 19.
Josh Hart, Villanova's preseason first-team all-American, had it going immediately, looking fiery and focused, dropping three-pointers, finishing with 30 points. The second half started the same way, except it was Villanova teammate Mikal Bridges doing the same things, scoring 15 of his 19 after the break, most in a big early spree.
The third-ranked Wildcats (4-0) took the 96-77 semifinal to move into Sunday night's championship game of the Charleston Classic.
"Second to our defense . . . we really battled - we were really efficient offensively, I think that's the right word," said Villanova coach Jay Wright, who turned it toward Hart. "Josh has been playing well, but really efficient. The last game he had four or five assists. So when you play in a game like this where there are a lot of possessions, and you do it efficiently, you're going to get numbers. In certain games, you might not get the numbers but you're making the right plays."
Starting guard Phil Booth, who had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee after last season, sat this out.
"We believe it's just tendinitis - we believe," Wright said. "But because of the [surgery] we just want to be careful, shut him down, [not play] in back-to-back games like this. We're pretty sure it's just tendinitis but we're going to get it reexamined just to be safe."
Reverse post player Tim Delaney, who had two hip surgeries and sat out last season, hasn't dressed in the last few games. Wright said Delaney "is having little problems with" the hip. "We don't know if it's serious or not. We're going to get him another MRI."
With Booth out, Donte DiVincenzo got 20 minutes and had 12 points on 3 of 5 three-point shooting. Four different Wildcats had at least three three-pointers, with Kris Jenkins also hitting three.
First possession of the game, Hart hit a three. Barely more than three minutes in, he had a follow-up hoop and another three, then a third three, for 11 points in the first 3 minutes, 38 seconds. He had 18 points in the first 12 minutes and 20 at halftime.
Right after the break, it was a similar show from Bridges, hitting a corner three to start things out on a feed from Jalen Brunson, then another three, then a drive to the hoop, then a corner three straight off a Jenkins inbounds pass.
"It's just making the right play," Hart said, talking about a film session, laughing at the memory of what was probably a spirited session. "It was a good film session. We came in with the mind-set, do the right thing, make the right play. A lot of the shots we got inside, kicked out, opposite, made the extra pass. The ball was really moving well today. It wasn't sticking."