Kris Jenkins has gotten to celebrate his birthday with win in each of the previous two seasons. This year, he gets to do the same, but it wasn’t just any other kind of game.
Jenkins scored 12 points to help the Wildcats to a 67-57 win over the Central Florida Knights in the finals of the Gildan Charleston Classic, capping off the four-day tournament.
He wasn’t the only one get involved with the festivities, as four other Wildcats scored in double figures in Sunday’s win–Josh Hart (15 points), Donte DiVincenzo (13), Jalen Brunson (12), and Mikal Bridges (10).
Even with so many different players getting involved with scoring, it wasn’t an easy victory.
UCF, headlined by its gargantuan 7-foot-6, 300 pound center Tacko Fall, kept the game close with the Wildcats at the beginning of the game. The two teams traded baskets and weren’t really able to gain separation.
After a B.J. Taylor jumper tied the game up at 18 with 7:54 remaining in the first half, Villanova head coach Jay Wright called time out. Coming out of the break, Darryl Reynolds sparked a 13-2 run for Villanova, giving the team its first true lead over UCF.
The run was topped off by a Brunson 3-pointer. The scoring spurt helped Villanova take a 35-23 lead going into halftime.
From there, the second half was more of the same, with the Wildcats doing just enough to keep the Knights away. At one point, Villanova was able to stretch its lead to 20, thanks to a 3-pointer by Eric Paschall that made it 63-43 with 4:40 remaining in the game.
However, UCF would not go away quietly. The Knights started to string along a number of baskets together, but it was far too late into the game for their run to threaten the Wildcats’ lead.
Fall led the Knights with 20 points, off of a perfect 10-of-10 performance, and 13 rebounds. With his large frame, no one on the Wildcats’ roster came close to competing with the tallest player in college basketball. Taylor added another 13 points and five assists. Matt Williams finished with 17 points, three rebounds, and four assists.
The win marks Villanova’s fourth straight regular season non-conference tournament. The Wildcats previously won the Battle 4 Atlantis (2013), Legends Classic (2014), and the NIT Season Tip-Off (2015).
Villanova improves to 5-0 and will return home to host the College of Charleston at the Pavilion on Wednesday night. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.