Villanova Wildcats resume Big 5 play tomorrow night when they welcome the Penn Quakers to the Pavilion. The Quakers are 1-1 in Big 5 play thus far, topping La Salle Explorers and falling to Temple Owls. They are coming off a 53-52 loss in overtime to Drexel Dragons, if you believe in that City 6 stuff.
Penn's four wins against Division I opponents have a combined seven wins. The short journey to Radnor will clearly be the toughest challenge the Ivy League squad will face thus far, and possibly all season. `Nova has not lost to Penn since 2002.
This is Villanova's last out of conference game before they play Xavier on New Year's Eve. Big 5 play will conclude on February 17th when they travel to Temple. It will be interesting to see if Wright uses this play around with possible pairings on the court, especially with Kris Jenkins injuring his knee against Delaware.
Nevertheless, Wright preaches that no game should be taken lightly, especially in the Big 5. Another win will give the `Cats some confidence heading into what will be the most exciting conference schedule yet.
Here's 3 things to watch for Monday night:
Darien Nelson-Henry vs. Daniel Ochefu
The Quaker center leads his team in points and rebounds, and is a more than efficient 57.4% from the field an 78.4% from the free throw line. Ochefu is coming off a 9 point, 4 rebound effort against Delaware. Defensively, DO and the Wildcats have been dominant thus far. UD's leading rebounder Marvin King-Davis finished just 1-7 against Villanova, and that truly stifled the Blue Hens' offense. Similar success against Penn's big man would yield equal success.
Ochefu has just five double digit point and rebound games this season, with his most recent double-double coming back in November against East Tennessee State. When he has confidence in his play he is able to beat double teams and open the floor for the rest of the Wildcats on offense. If Danny O can establish himself early, Penn will not be a threat.
Penn and 3's
The Quakers shoot 28.4% from three, which is 14th worst in Division 1. By clogging the paint, Penn will be forced to shoot from beyond the arc, and clearly that is something they struggle to do. Their leading three-point threat is Sam Jones who shoots 38% from three. He attempts eight 3's a game and that will rise in a game they expect to mostly be playing from behind.
The trio of Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Ryan Arcidiacono need to lock Jones up to ensure he does not catch fire early. Arch and Brunson have been good at driving through the lane and drawing fouls with the new rule, so they could get Jones on the bench for much of the first half and frustrate the opponent early
Villanova is one of the best in the country in turnovers and AST/TO ratio. This team does a great job keeping the mistake to a minimum and moving the ball around to the open man. Keeping this success up against a team that has yet to play a school over 0.500 will cause confusion and establish dominance early.
Arcidiacono has a 4.17 Assist to Turnover ratio. 9th best in NCAA. https://t.co/owuu4mZPW1
— VU Hoops (@VUhoops) December 26, 2015
Arch is the leader for the team in assists even though Brunson has taken over much of those duties. The senior needs to keep that leadership on the court if Villanova wants to continue their Big 5 and Big East success.