On Saturday night at the Pavilion, the Villanova Wildcats edged their Philadelphia counterparts, the Penn Quakers, by the score of 73-65. The youngsters for the Cats, specifically Darrun Hilliard, played a stellar game to help snap Nova's two game losing streak. Junior big man Mouphtaou Yarou led the way for the home squad with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Hilliard contributed 13 points on an efficient 5-9 shooting. For Penn, Zach Rosen poured in 21 points and grabbed 6 boards.
The 6 day layoff for Villanova was much needed, and the extra rest allowed the Cats to score the first 8 points of the contest. The trio of Ty Johnson, Achraf Yacoubou, and Hilliard provided a balanced scoring attack in the first half, which resulted in a lead as much as 18 for Nova.
As usual, Yarou was a beast in the paint and on the glass, although to be fair, Penn doesn't have a true inside presence. The biggest positive in the first stanza was Villanova's defense, especially their perimeter d. Jay Wright and his squad have been heavily criticized for this, but the Cats held the Quakers to 0-8 from behind the arc in the first half.
More after The Jump.
Young teams usually struggle to put teams away, and the Cats were a prime example of this against Penn. Being up 18 at the half, Villanova did not have the killer instinct, which allowed the visitors to make a game of this one late. Villanova's defense was not on point like they were in the first half, as Nova struggled mightily with the pick and roll. Furthermore, the Quakers started to hit some threes and the lead dwindled down to single digits, where it remained for most of the second half. Penn cut it to 4 with twenty seconds left, but the Cats hit their free throws to ice the game.
Prior to this game, I really thought this was a must win for the inexperienced Wildcats. Most of the freshmen probably have not been a part of too many 2 game losing streaks, so a win was huge for their confidence. As a fan, you have to be impressed with the play of the freshmen.
Wayns and Yarou are going to be off in some games, so production from the likes of Ach, Hilliard, Johnson, and Markus Kennedy will be a necessity as the season progresses. It's an only 8 point win, but it's a win nonetheless with very tough games on the horizon in the form of Missouri at MSG on Tuesday and Saturday at Temple.