Villanova routs Mount St. Mary's

Posted: November 15, 2013

THESE ARE the kind of early-season home games that teams like Villanova schedule mostly as a prelude, no offense to Mount St. Mary's. Yet last year the Wildcats lost one just like this to Columbia. Last night at the Pavilion the visitors were up one at the first TV timeout. That's when senior guard Tony Chennault came in off the bench.

By the next stoppage, a little over 4 minutes later, the Wildcats had scored 16 straight points. And the rest pretty much turned into what it's supposed to be.

Chennault is a Philly guy who went to Wake Forest for two seasons. He transferred back to be closer to his ailing mother. Then he lost his older brother and mentor to a bullet. This past summer, his mom passed away. And he considered moving on to yet another school. Eventually, he reconsidered. On a team with no shortage of backcourt options, his complementary role maybe isn't what he had in mind when he came home. Still, he can make a difference.

The early, game-changing run wasn't entirely his doing. It rarely is. But his energy and decision-making simply played a noticeable part in it. And there figures to be enough games later on where his team will need more of that, if it intends to fulfill its potential.

"What he brings out there is so valuable," said coach Jay Wright, after the Wildcats improved to 2-0 with a 90-59 win. "You want the ball in his hands. You have to have guys like that."

Wright, of course, can never have enough perimeter players. And he'll get another one when sophomore Dylan Ennis, who sat out last season after transferring from Rice, returns from his hand injury in another 3 weeks or so. And you can never have enough veterans.

"He's smart enough to know what it takes," Wright added. "He's scrappy as hell. And for a senior to accept his role, that's an example for everyone else, about putting the team first.

"You can talk about it. He lives it."

Chennault has obviously been through some rough times. But he's a survivor. And there's a lot to be said for that.

"I just try to do all the little things," he said, after getting five points on just two shots, a team-high six assists and two steals in 23 minutes, with much of that coming in the first half. "We already have a lot of great scorers. I'm just trying to be a team guy, be a leader for the young guys.

"I was at a crossroads in my life. I was trying to figure out what I really wanted. I was going through some personal issues. But they've always been there for me [here]. That's much more important than basketball."

And he was playing with six stitches in his upper lip, courtesy of a flying elbow from teammate James Bell that ended Tuesday's practice.

"Having so many guards makes it a lot easier," Chennault said. "There's so many guys that can make plays."

JayVaughn Pinkston topped four double-digit scorers, with 21. Darrun Hilliard (8-for-10) finished with 18, while freshman Josh Hart got 17 in 22 minutes on seven of eight shooting to go with a team-best 11 rebounds. Bell, who had a career-high 24 in the opener against Lafayette, had 12 and eight. The Wildcats were 37-for-59 from the field (62 percent), 17-for-25 after intermission.

The Mount, which opened with a 15-point loss at West Virginia, was picked to finish sixth in the Northeast Conference.

"I'm feeling a little more comfortable," said Hart, who missed a couple weeks of training camp with a concussion. "The guys just kept picking me up. It's getting a little easier. There's always room for improvement."

Especially at this time of year.

Just like there's always room for those who only want to help.

Former Wildcats coach Steve Lappas worked his first game as a color analyst at the Pavilion, for CBS Sports Network, with Phillies play-by-play voice Tom McCarthy . . . Forward Mikal Bridges, of Great Valley High, signed his national letter of intent. Villanova's other commitment for the class of 2014, Baltimore guard Phil Booth, is expected to make it official today.

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