VILLANOVA, Pa. - The University of Pennsylvania men’s basketball team engaged Villanova in a Big 5 game on Wednesday night that was atypical in a number of ways. But while the route there may have been uncommon, the final result was perhaps predictable as the 14th-ranked Wildcats defeated the Quakers, 77-54, at the Pavilion.
For starters, let’s talk about the start of the second half of this game. Penn (2-5) was down 46-28 to start the period, but held Villanova without a point for nearly eight minutes. However, the Quakers were only able to make up seven points during that stretch.
Villanova’s first field goal of the half came after its midway point, when Darrun Hilliard scored on a layup with 9:55 left. (After a first half in which all of his field goals were three-pointers, even the way in which Hilliard scored was unusual.) The bucket came after Penn had finally drawn within single digits of the Wildcats for the first time since 14-6, and it pushed Villanova back up by a 52-41 score.
Penn was able to hang around for a bit longer, however, and when Julian Harrell hit a jumper with 6:42 to play the score was 56-48 and the nervousness was palpable.
Villanova (8-0) scored the next 12 points over a span of 2:42. That calmed the crowd down a bit.
What else was unusual on Wednesday night? From a Penn standpoint, many things.
*After playing a grand total of 19 minutes this season -- just five of them in the previous three games combined -- freshman Tony Bagtas got the start at point guard and went 36 minutes on Wednesday night. All he did in that role was dish out nine assists, score seven points and grab six rebounds.
*Sophomore Tony Hicks entered the night leading Penn in scoring and was the only Quaker to have scored in double figures in every game this season. He committed an offensive foul just 32 seconds into the game and it was all downhill from there. He took three shots, making none of them. He ended the game with one point.
*Off a 26-point performance at Lafayette, Fran Dougherty also struggled on Wednesday. He scored just three points, going 1-of-7 from the field, although he did grab nine rebounds to lead the Quakers in that category.
Penn got off to a bad start, committing a series of turnovers. At the other end, Darrun Hilliard wrapped a pair of three-point baskets around five points from James Bell to make the score 11-0. The Quakers finally got on the board when Darien Nelson-Henry knocked down a putback, followed by a Miles Jackson-Cartwright bucket, but Villanova traded Penn’s twos for threes and expanded its lead to as much as 22 points (31-9).
Penn came to life, almost exclusively on the shoulders of the senior Jackson-Cartwright. He hit a trio of treys, and Greg Louis added a banker from the top of the key, and with five minutes left the Quakers were back within 10 points. The sleepy Pavilion crowd briefly sprung to life.
The Wildcats heard their implorings. Bell got a quick bucket in the paint, and then Jayvaughn Pinkston got to the line and hit both shots to make the score 35-21. Jackson-Cartwright had another three in him -- really, he singlehandedly kept Penn from being completely embarrassed in the opening period -- but Villanova locked down after that and took a 46-28 lead into the break.
Jackson-Cartwright ended the game with 17 points, while Nelson-Henry had 12 points and seven rebounds. For Villanova, Hilliard led four players in double figures with 19 points, while James Bell had 14, Pinkston added 13, and Dylan Ennis knocked down 11.
In a game that was tightly officiated, Villanova certainly adjusted better -- the Wildcats took 40 foul shots, compared to just 11 for Penn. (Villanova had just 18 field goals in the game, 10 of them from long range.) The Quakers outrebounded the athletic ‘Cats, 42-40. However, 24 turnovers were also damaging.
Penn plays one more game before fall-term exams begin, hosting Wagner on Saturday at 7 p.m. in The Palestra.
Game Notes: Penn fell to Villanova for the 11th straight time … The game featured an 11-0 run by Villanova to start the contest, a 12-0 run by Penn later in the first half, and a 12-0 run by the Wildcats late in the second half … Penn held Villanova without a point for the first 7:31 of the second half, and without a field goal for the first 10:55 of the period … Penn outrebounded its third straight opponent (42-40) … Penn tied a season high with six three-point baskets … Penn’s point total was a season low, as was its shooting percentage (.339) ... This was the first game Penn has played this season that did not have one lead change or tie … Penn remains 2-0 on Tuesdays and 2-0 against MAAC teams; the Quakers are 0-5 in all other scenarios … Villanova tied an opponent high in the Jerome Allen coaching era with 40 free-throw attempts (Iowa also hit that mark on November 22) … Senior Miles Jackson-Cartwright scored 14 of his team-high 17 points in the first half … All four of Jackson-Cartwright’s treys came in a span of 4:10 and provided 12 of the points in a 15-4 run … Jackson-Cartwright now has 1,165 career points, which ties him for 28th on Penn’s all-time scoring list with Tim Begley (2002-05); Paul Romanczuk (1996-99) is in 27th place, with 1,179 points … Sophomore Darien Nelson-Henry scored 12 points, matching his total from the previous two games combined (4 vs. Niagara, 8 at Lafayette) … Jackson-Cartwright now has 56 career double-figure scoring games, while Nelson-Henry has 15 such games … Nelson-Henry also set a season high with two steals … Freshman Tony Bagtas made his first collegiate start, and after playing just 19 minutes in Penn’s first six games -- and just five in the previous three games combined -- he played 36 in this one … Penn set a team season low with 14 assists, but Bagtas set a new player high for this season with nine of them (previous high 5) … Fran Dougherty tied a season high with nine rebounds; after grabbing 14 boards in Penn’s first four games (3.5 rpg), he has 26 in the last three contests (8.7 rpg) … Penn’s leading scorer entering the game, Tony Hicks, was plagued by foul trouble; he took just three shots in 13 minutes and finished the game with one point … Junior Henry Brooks grabbed his 200th career rebound.