Villanova junior Kris Jenkins continued his hot shooting Tuesday night with a career-high 31 points, and coach Jay Wright was asked how he can explain his player's offensive success.
"He don't pass," Wright said with a deadpan expression. Then after the laughter at his postgame news conference subsided, he added, "He doesn't pass, and we don't want him to."
Jenkins, a 6-foot-6 forward, drilled eight three-point baskets in scoring the most points by a Villanova player this season and helped carry the third-ranked Wildcats to an 83-62 victory over DePaul in their last game of the season at the Pavilion. The win gave the Cats (26-4, 15-2) their third consecutive Big East regular-season championship.
Jenkins made 11 of 18 shots from the floor. His eight threes, in 14 attempts, tied the high for a Big East player this season, matching Isaiah Zierden of Creighton. In his last five games, Jenkins has averaged 21.4 points, shooting 53 percent from the field and 46 percent from the three-point arc.
"We don't run a lot of stuff for him, and it's not his job to pass," Wright said. "It's his job to make shots. He's just great at it. What he's really improved upon is making decisions - when to shoot it, when to drive it, when to put it in the post. I think that's where he is right now. And when you make those perfect decisions, you shoot a high percentage. That's what he's doing."
Jenkins, who has a team-high 70 three-point baskets this season, said he doesn't feel any difference in the way he's playing now compared with earlier this season.
"It's just staying aggressive," he said. "My teammates do an unbelievable job of making the right play, and recently the right play has just been for me to catch and shoot. They do a great job of finding me. They attack the basket and teams collapse on them and I'm always there for them."
In the first half, with Villanova holding an 11-10 lead in the early going, Jenkins went on the hottest 3-minute, 32-second stretch by a Wildcats player this season, scoring every point of a 14-0 run that enabled his team to take control. There were back-to-back threes, and later another pair of consecutive treys, plus a fastbreak layup.
"Kris does a great job of spacing the floor and he's a great shooter," said Josh Hart, who added 18 points for Villanova. "So if he's open, it's going to be good."
Led by Willingboro native Eli Cain with 14 points, DePaul (9-20, 3-14) managed to cut the margin to eight late in the first half, but Villanova outscored the visitors, 11-1, in the final 2:15 of the first half to take a 51-33 lead at the break.
Jenkins again knocked down a pair of consecutive threes at the start of the second half to help get the lead to 25, and the Blue Demons never got closer than 17 after that.
The Wildcats managed to keep a comfortable lead in the second half despite shooting just 33.3 percent, and despite the fact that Jenkins accounted for their only three field goals in the opening nine minutes. They finished the game at 50 percent shooting and swished 14 threes.
DePaul shot 56 percent from three, making nine from beyond the arc, and outrebounded 'Nova, 34-29. But the Wildcats scored 25 points off 17 turnovers and committed just five miscues.