- Associated Press - Saturday, December 3, 2016

VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) - The Villanova student section had checked their tweets, texts and timelines and saw the score from roughly 630 miles west of campus that had as much of an impact on them as the latest victory a few feet in front of them.

Kentucky lost - a game and its grip as the No. 1 team in nation.

“No. 1! No. 1! No. 1”

Villanova coach Jay Wright heard the chant. He glanced at the scoreboard for an update, and when there was nothing on the screen for UCLA-Kentucky, he simply “thought it was something else.”

Think again.

The national champion Wildcats are set to become the No. 1 Wildcats.

Josh Hart had 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his first career triple-double and led No. 2 Villanova to an 88-57 victory over Saint Joseph’s on Saturday.

Top-ranked Kentucky’s 97-92 loss to No. 11 UCLA on Saturday means the defending national champion Wildcats should slide into the top spot in the next AP Top 25 poll.

Villanova hit No. 1 for the first time in program history for three weeks last season.

“It’s something to deal with,” Wright said. “Last year, we really didn’t know what to do about it.”

Well, winning the program’s second national title was a pretty good solution.

Villanova (8-0) is again on the short list of teams that should contend for a national championship. No team has gone back-to-back since Florida in 2006 and 2007.

Anchored by seniors Hart and Kris Jenkins, Wright built this program to last deep into the NCAA Tournament. Hart, the preseason Big East player of the year, continued to shine as one of the best players in the nation. Hart hit three 3s and made 6 of 10 shots from the field overall en route to what was believed to be Villanova’s first triple-double since Harold Pressley in 1986.

“He’s so complete in every way,” Wright said. “He’s the best competitor out there. He’s on the team with Kris and he’s one of the best shooters. He’s a great decision maker. And, he’s our best defensive player.”

Hart could soon be the best player on the best team in the country.

“We were No. 1 last year, so we know that’s a possibility,” Hart said. “But I don’t think there’s a crazy difference between 1, 2, 3, 4, 25, this early in the year.”

Jenkins made four 3s and scored 20 points for the Wildcats. Villanova made 16 of 34 3-point attempts; 8 of 17 in each half.

Villanova closed the first half on a 20-4 run and won its 16th straight Big 5 game against Philly-based teams La Salle, Penn, Drexel, Temple and the Hawks.

Lamarr Kimble led the Hawks (3-4) with 15 points and Markell Lodge had 10 rebounds.

“The plan was to have them go over the top of us not through us,” Hawks coach Phil Martelli said.

BIG PICTURE

SAINT JOSEPH’S: The Hawks have followed a 3-0 start with a four-game losing streak. They lost only eight games last season. The Hawks haven’t beat Villanova since Dec. 17, 2011, and they fell to 3-10 against AP Top 25 teams over the last three seasons.

VILLANOVA: The Wildcats played without guard Phil Booth for the fifth straight game. Booth has tendinitis in his left knee and the Wildcats will not rush him back. Booth watched the Wildcats win their 42nd straight game at the Pavilion. The Wildcats sold out their 172nd straight game at their on-campus arena.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Villanova, which had 20 first-place votes last week, will be No. 1 on Monday.

BIG 5

Martelli said Villanova’s city dominance hasn’t soured enthusiasm for the Big 5. But the 2004 AP coach of the year would like to see some changes to the round-robin format.

“Why don’t we block out 2 1/2 weeks,” he said. “If we block this out, after those exempt tournaments, let’s take those two weeks and call it ‘Philadelphia Basketball’ and get everyone of us to commit to playing games on different nights. We have to fight this. This is a treasure we’ve all been given to care take.”

UP NEXT

Saint Joseph’s plays Dec. 11 at Drexel to cap a stretch of three straight Big 5 games.

The Wildcats play Tuesday against La Salle at the Palestra.

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More AP college basketball: www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25.


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