VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — Jay Wright was raised on Big East basketball, a fan since the conference’s inception, and later blossomed into one of its best coaches over the last 12 years. He has a Final Four and four Sweet 16s over a coaching career where he made Villanova matter again on the national scene.
As Wright joined school AD Vince Nicastro and president, the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, at the podium following the Wildcats 75-65 win over Delaware Sunday, the talk was more about the school’s move from the Big East than the victory.
Wright loved being a Big East coach.
He can’t wait, however, to move onward with the program into a new era of conference alignment. He has no interest in leaving Villanova.
“I love coaching at Villanova because of the AD and the president and our commitment and our ability to work together,” Wright said. “This is big. But this does not affect me at all in that sense.”
Villanova played Sunday for the first time since it was announced it was one of seven Big East schools separating from the conference so they can build a league focused on basketball.
Wright’s career at Villanova dates back to 1987 when he was an assistant under Rollie Massimino. Daddy Mass had led the Wildcats to an improbable national championship in 1985, and Wright was thrilled to join his mentor’s staff. He stayed until 1992, then returned as the head coach in 2001.
Villanova is where he wants to finish his career, no matter what the new league is called — or if the Big East name is retained.
“I’m all in,” Wright said. “I just love the way we do it at Villanova. I think going into this new league, it’s almost going to accentuate how we do things here. I think everybody’s going to be even more into it here.”
The Wildcats (7-4) blew open a close one at halftime Sunday to lead by as many as 18 points and beat Delaware for the 11th straight time.
JayVaughn Pinkston scored 19 points and James Bell had 14. Daniel Ochefu scored 11 points and Darrun Hilliard had 10 points. Maurice Sutton had eight rebounds and six blocks.
Devon Saddler led the Blue Hens (3-8) with 19 points and Jarvis Threatt had 15.
Pinkston hit a 3 in the second half to give Villanova a 10-point lead and Hilliard added one a short time later to make it 46-35. The long-range shots helped the Wildcats build an 18-point lead.
Villanova outrebounded Delaware 43-27 and dominated on the offensive glass, 20-9.
Pinkston put Villanova up 32-28 at the break on a basket through traffic at the buzzer. Delaware was hit with a technical foul, giving Villanova a huge break to open the second half. Ryan Arcidiacono made one of two free throws, Pinkston converted a three-point play and the rout was on.
“We’ve just really been working together at practice, staying together,” Pinkston said. “It’s about the little things with us.”
Bell made 4 of 6 3-pointers and the Wildcats hit 10 of 24 3-point attempts.
“He’s just becoming our rock,” Wright said.
The Wildcats finish the nonconference schedule with games against Monmouth and NJIT. They open the Big East season Jan. 2 against St. John’s.
St. John’s, Georgetown, DePaul, Marquette, Seton Hall and Providence all decided with Villanova on Saturday to officially separate from the Big East conference many of them helped build.
“The rivalries that we’ve all enjoyed and loved over time have changed, have disappeared in some cases,” Nicasto said.
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