The Villanova Wildcats got off to a great start in Big 5 play and remained undefeated on the season as they defeated the Pennsylvania Quakers 82-57 on Tuesday night. Kris Jenkins had a game high 22 points, including 6-7 from behind the arc, to go along with 5 rebounds. He would also score his 1,000th point of his Villanova career. “Kris just hit some deep ones. He was guarded, and that’s where sometimes talent takes over.” head coach Jay Wright said after the game.
Darryl Reynolds (12 points, 8 rebounds) and Josh Hart both (12 points, 9 assists) came close to double doubles as the senior class completed its career record of 26-0 in November. Six Cats in all would score in double digits, including DiVincenzo (13), Brunson (11), and Bridges (10).
The Quakers were just simply outmatched by a bigger, stronger, and more athletic Wildcat team. Turnovers would be the big story of the night with the Wildcats scoring 23 points off 17 Penn turnovers. But uncharacteristically, the Wildcats also had problems turning the ball over. They would also commit 17 for the game, including 7 in just 5 minutes during the second half.
Your first Big 5 game is truly an experience, and that was true for Eric Paschall tonight, who finished with just 2 points. “We try to educate the guys who haven’t been in it,” said Wright. “You got to live it to believe it... A guy like Eric Paschall, he has know idea, and he struggled today. You just deal with it.”
Phil Booth missed his 4th game in a row with some inflammation in his knee. Jay Wright gave his status as “possible” for Saturday’s game against St. Joe’s and “probable” for the Cats return to the Palestra on Tuesday to face La Salle. After the game, Wright commented “He’s getting better every day... It’s nothing major, we’re just being really conservative this early in the season. We figure it’s going to be a long year, hopefully, and we want to just get everything perfect before we bring him back.” Tim Delaney, who has also been out multiple games, is scheduled for an MRI on Wednesday and there’s no timetable for his return.
Villanova opened the game with a 10-3 run, and they never let their foot off the petal after jumping out to the early lead. The Wildcats would hit their first 6 shots of the game, and would go on to shoot 60% from the floor and 50% from beyond the arc in the first half. Kris Jenkins led the Cats into the locker room with 13 first half points, while Darryl Reynolds had 7 rebounds in the first half alone. On defense, Nova was able to hold the Quakers to just 35% shooting and 9 turnovers.
In the second half, the Cats would extend their lead as much as 28 points on route to the dominating victory. Dylan Painter would get some quality minutes, as would Donte Divincenzo despite playing most of the second half with 4 fouls. In the end, Jay Wright would clear the bench in the final minutes of the dominating win.
Villanova will go for it’s second Big 5 win on Saturday at the Pavillion as they host St. Joe’s in the “Holy War”.
The historic Palestra arena, the “cathedral” of college hoops, was packed for Penn’s home opener Tuesday night as the #2 team in the country made the short trip into Philly. The student section was out in full force sporting bright red “BEAT NOVA” shirts as they hoped their team could pull off what would be a huge upset. But Villanova wasn’t without their own supporters, as Nova Nation made up almost half the crowd.
For Villanova, Phil Booth and Tim Delaney would remained sidelined for tonight’s game as they continued to recover from knee and hip injuries respectively. Mikal Bridges would get his 4th start of the season in Booth’s spot. Another surprise in the starting line-up, Josh Hart was late to weight lifting this week and was replaced with Donte DiVincenzo. This is DiVincenzo’s first start of the season, joining Bridges, Kris Jenkins, Darryl Reynolds, and Jalen Brunson.
Penn won the tip, but it would be Villanova who scored first on a Jenkins 3-point shot. The threes would continue to rain as Jackson Donahue and Donte DiVincenzo would hit back to back shots. Darryl Reynolds showed off his mid range game and Brunson turned a quick steal into a lay-up, and just 3 minutes in the Wildcats had a 7 point lead.
The teams would trade baskets, but Villanova’s defense began to prove just as overpowering as it’s offense when DiVincenzo blocked an attempted lay-up into the stands. Even when Penn would make a shot, Nova would answer right back with one of their own. In fact, through the first five minutes, the Wildcats were a perfect 6-6 from the floor.
Eric Paschall’s corner three would be the team’s first miss, but even then Villanova was too strong on the boards as Jenkins drew a foul on the Quakers. But Penn wasn’t about to let the “non Philly” school walk all over them, and used a pair of three pointers to cut the lead back to 5 with just over 13 minutes to play in the half. That run was short lived though, as Mikal Bridges hit a three to extend the lead back to 8. Nova just couldn’t be stopped behind the arc as they were already 5-7 from deep and a blistering 80% overall at the 12 minute media timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, Penn found that the best way to cool off the Villanova offense was to keep them from shooting at all. On back to back possessions they were able to trap Reynolds in the corner and then force a shot clock violation. Unfortunately, they were unable to convert offensively, and Nova was able to finally get the lead up to double digits on a Reynolds post hook shot mid-way through the first half.
Defensively, Villanova kept the pressure on, forcing Penn into contested shots and drawing offensive fouls. The one weakness of the defense early on was on the boards, as Penn racked up 5 offensive rebounds by the 8 minute media timeout. But even with the extra chances, Penn was shooting just 31% on 5-16 shooting.
Coming out of the timeout, Josh Hart would take and make the first two free throws of the game as Nova entered the Bonus. Penn continued its shooting woes as Nova started to rack up trips to the line, where DiVincenzo kept them perfect with two makes of his own.
The Quakers were starting to get frustrated, and that frustration led to turnovers and mental mistakes against Nova’s 1-2-2 press. Josh Hart continued to attack the paint, converting a three point play the old fashioned way with an And 1 basket. On the next possession, Brunson would lose his handle and have to dive to the floor for the ball. He quickly got it to Hart who moved it across court to Jenkins who hit a shot from 5 feet beyond the arc as the shot clock ran out. With 5:26 left in the half, Villanova had pushed its lead up to 15 with a score of 33-17.
Penn couldn’t buy a bucket as multiple offensive rebounds still couldn’t result in baskets. Not until a wide open “cherry-pick” play that DiVincenzo fouled AJ Brodeur on was Penn able to finally put some points on the board. But even then, they couldn’t cut into the Nova lead, as Reynolds was able to flush a wide open layup on the other end.
Villanova’s shooting had cooled off considerably, but they still maintained their 16 point lead. Part of that was due to their much improved rebounding led by Darryl Reynolds who pulled down 7 boards in the first half. The teams would trade baskets and turnovers in the final minutes until Mikal Bridges was able to break Penn’s 1-2-2 press, finding Josh Hart in the corner for a wide open 3-pointer. Penn answered with a three of their own, and then forced a Villanova turnover. Mikal Bridges was able to quickly turn it right back over in the final seconds, and Josh Hart flushed it home with 10 seconds left on the clock.
With time expiring, the Penn coaching staff was called for a technical foul, and with 2.6 seconds on the clock Kris Jenkins was able to sink both free throws. Penn would miss it’s final shot of the half, and Villanova would head into the locker room up 44-25.
Villanova went right back to work out of the half, and Reynolds quickly pushed the lead over 20 with two free throws. Penn was able to answer with another three from Jackson Donahue. But Darryl Reynolds was out working everyone in this game, coming down with another rebound and a strong finish at the rim on the other end. Nova would get a quick stop and another quick layup by Bridges before Donahue again buried one from deep, his 4th three pointer of the game.
Villanova continued to work the ball around effectively on offense, and after Hart grabbed an offensive rebound and drew a Penn foul, he found Donte DiVincenzo in the corner for three. Nova would then force a another shot clock violation on the other end before Brunson would drive the lane for another layup, now pushing the lead to 24 with 16 minutes left in the game.
Coming out of the timeout, Nova almost had another steal, but this time Penn came out of the scramble with the ball, which led to an easy layup. They then were able to force Nova into a turnover, but this time couldn’t convert as they committed an offensive foul, giving the ball right back to the Cats. The back and forth continued as Penn would force a jump ball with the arrow in their favor, but again they had no luck offensively. Eventually Penn tried to drive the lane in transition and were rewarded with a trip to the foul line. Caleb Wood would make both shots to cut the lead back down to 20 with 13:40 left.
The teams would trade a few possesions before Eric Paschall would be blocked on an attempt from the post. He didn’t give up though, and made a diving steal in transition that Brunson took the other way and made a nifty fake pass for the fast break lay-up. Penn would answer at the other end, pushing the ball off a Villanova turnover and creating an And 1 opportunity at the other end for Matt Howard. He would miss the free throw and the Villanova lead would stay at 20.
Every time Penn cut into Nova’s lead, the Cats were able to answer offensively. Whether it was a Hart tip in or a Jenkins three pointer, the Cats had an answer for everything the Quakers threw at them. That included a Mikal Bridges And 1 on yet another Villanova transition basket. That was followed by a Hart steal and a Jenkins 3-pointer, and Villanova’s lead had now grown to 25 with just under 9 minutes left in the game.
Darryl Reynolds would add two more free throws before Dylan Painter would make his first appearance around the 8 minute mark to join Reynolds, Paschall, and Jenkins. With one of Nova’s biggest lineups on the court, Penn was forced into attempting deep threes which just weren’t connecting. Painter even showed an ability to get down and dirty for loose balls, earning a jump ball that would lead to another three for Jenkins.
As the game approached the 5 minute mark, the air had gone out of the Penn cheering section, but the Nova Nation kept the cheers going as the Cats maintained their sizable lead. Penn would try to make a comeback, and even got the lead back under 25, but it was clear that there would be no upset tonight. The bench would be cleared as the reigning national champions would remain undefeated on the season with a final score of 82-57.