PHILADELPHIA - The Penn men's basketball team knew it hadits hands full with Villanova coming into The Palestra. Never mind that the Wildcats were undefeated (6-0) and ranked 16th in the latest USA Today/ESPN national coaches' poll; Villanova was also playing its third game at The Palestra in five days.
Talk about having a home-court advantage taken away.
Unlike a year ago at The Pavilion, Penn stayed within shouting distance of 'Nova through most of the first half, andwas down by a respectable 36-24 at the break. However, any chance ofthe Quakersgetting back into this thing in the second stanza were quickly quashed, as Villanova scored the first12 points of the half and cruised to a 69-47 victory.
Penn is now 1-5, though that record may be deceiving given that the five teams to beat the Quakersare a combined 27-4 (87.1 win percentage). Nevertheless, the young Quakers need a dose of confidence quickly, as Navy comes to The Palestra Friday night with a 6-1 mark after defeating UT-San Antonio Tuesday night in Annapolis.
Villanova set the tone as Corey Stokes knocked down a three-pointer on the Wildcats' first possession, giving them a lead they would never relinquish. It was only 5-4 after two minutes, but then Penn went nearly six minutes without a point as 'Nova built up a nine-point lead (13-4). That advantage swelled to 13 before the half reached its midpoint, never went below eight (22-14) with 8:23 to go), and crested at 15 (36-21) before a Tyler Bernardini trey brought the half to a close.
However, Scottie Reynolds knocked down a trey to start the second half, Dante Cunningham hit a jumper to follow, and Corey Stokes drained a trifecta to quickly push Villanova's lead to 20. Penn, meanwhile, turned the ball over on its first three possessions, and it was not until five minutes had passed that Harrison Gaines ended the Quakers' scoring skein with a jumper. By then the score was 48-26.
Gaines played 27 minutes and finished the night with 14 points, making him the fourth different Penn player to lead the team in scoring in a game only six contests into the season. Bernardini was the only other player to reach double figures for the Quakers, with 12 points. Jack Eggleston once again filled the box score with eight points, three rebounds, two assists and three steals., while Remy Cofield got his first start of the season and had three assists and two steals to go with three points.
One bright spot was the appearance of junior Andreas Schreiber back in the rotation. Coming off a separated shoulder injury suffered in the preseason, Schreiber saw his first game action of 2008-09, playing 14 minutes.
For Villanova, Cunningham had a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds, and he also added three blocked shots. Stokes scored 14 points, while Reynolds had 10. The Wildcats outrebounded Penn 47-24, including 19 offensive boards to the Quakers' six.
Penn and Navy will meet Friday night at 7 p.m. at The Palestra, playing each other for the fourth straight year.