Kris Jenkins knocked down a three-pointer and turned up court in the first half of Villanova's 82-57 rout of Penn on Tuesday night at the Palestra. It was another swish in a half that seemed to be full of them.
Jenkins shook his head, puckered his lips, and blew a gust of air, perhaps hoping to cool off the sizzling Wildcats. It would take more than that to put out 'Nova's fire as the Wildcats hit seven of their 14 threes in the first half and shot 60 percent from the field to build a 19-point lead at the break.
The Wildcats - the first reigning national champions to play at the Palestra since Villanova's team in 1986 - never looked back.
It was Villanova's Big Five opener and it proved to be a clinic. The Wildcats passed the ball with trademark fluidity, played in-your-face defense, and knocked down jumpers with ease. 'Nova finished shooting 12 of 26 from three-point range and 27 of 49 from the field.
"I think we all got a good look at a really good basketball team in Villanova," Penn coach Steve Donahue said. "Not that any of us are surprised, but to see it up close and personal in a great venue like the Palestra, it's very, very impressive. The most impressive thing is that they're engaged in every aspect of the game."
Jenkins finished with a game-high 22 points. He hit six of his seven threes and grabbed five rebounds. Unbeknownst to him, Jenkins recorded his 1,000th career point in the second half. Penn's Darnell Foreman said the best way to stop Jenkins is to "not let him shoot." That game plan, Foreman said, is easier said than done.
"Kris just hit some deep ones," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "He was guarded and that's where sometimes talent takes over. A number of the ones he hit, he was guarded."
Villanova will play three of its next four games against Big Five foes to wrap up its local schedule. The Wildcats will be expected to finish the slate unbeaten, and if Tuesday is any indication, they could go untested. A perfect stretch would be their fourth straight 4-0 Big Five campaign. Tuesday's win completed Villanova's fourth straight November without a loss, which they hope they can parlay into another unbeaten April.
Darryl Reynolds added 12 points and eight rebounds. Josh Hart was held out of the starting lineup after Villanova (7-0) said he missed a team weightlifting session. The senior guard entered early in the first half and finished with 12 points, nine assists, and six rebounds.
Jackson Donahue led Penn (2-3) with 12 points. A.J. Brodeur and Foreman added 10 points each. Brodeur grabbed five rebounds and Foreman dished out five assists.
"We try not to rely on offense," Jenkins said. "So all of the energy came from the defensive end. We did a good job of playing together defensively and that's where all of that energy came from."
The Wildcats were without junior guard Phil Booth and redshirt freshman forward Tim Delaney. Wright said Booth, who has inflammation in his left knee, might play Saturday against St. Joseph's but probably will play on Dec. 6 against La Salle. Delaney will have an MRI exam on his hip on Wednesday.