PHILADELPHIA – The University of Pennsylvania men’s basketball team went toe-to-toe with the No. 5 team in the country, Villanova, for more than 30 minutes on Saturday night at a sold-out Palestra.
In the end, though, the Wildcats were too poised, too athletic and too experienced. Up just five with six minutes left, 45-40, Villanova went on a 14-3 run to ultimately vanquish the game Quakers, 62-47.
Antonio Woods was the star for Penn on Saturday night; the freshman scored a career-high 18 points and was a constant thorn in the Wildcats’ side. On two separate occasions in the second half, he knocked down three-pointers that drew the Quakers within a point, the first time at 33-32 and the second time at 38-37 with 9:54 to play.
Villanova (17-1)answered, as Daniel Ochefu (21 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists) found Ryan Arcidiacono all alone in the right corner and the junior guard coolly nailed a triple. Tony Hicks then missed a trey attempt for Penn, and the Wildcats quickly got the ball down the court and Ochefu fed Dylan Ennis to make it 43-37.
After another empty possession by Penn, Ochefu missed a shot for Villanova, but the Wildcats got the rebound and Ochefu didn’t miss his second chance, emphatically dunking a beautiful pass from Ennis.
To its credit, Penn (4-9) didn’t wilt. Greg Louis made one of two foul shots, and then Woods again hit a jumper, this time in the lane, to get it to 45-40 with exactly six minutes to play. Penn then had a chance to draw within a possession of the Wildcats, but Woods turned it over and Villanova took advantage, Darrun Hilliard laying it in off a Kris Jenkins feed.
Woods got to the line and hit one of his two foul shots to make the score 47-41, but then a key sequence in the game gave Villanova momentum that the Wildcats would not relinquish. Ochefu hit a jumper and was fouled to make it 49-41. He missed his foul shot, but got his own rebound, and that led to him getting fouled again. This time he made both shots, and that pushed Villanova’s lead to double digits, 51-41.
Hilliard and Ochefu then followed empty Penn possessions with two more free throws apiece, which made the score 55-41 with 2:37 to play. The Quakers could not get off the mat from that knockout punch.
Penn is home again two more times next week; the Quakers host Monmouth on Wednesday at 8 p.m. -- following the Penn women’s Big 5 game with Villanova, which tips off at 5:30 -- and on Saturday the Red and Blue will face Saint Joseph’s in their final Big 5 game of the season. Like Saturday’s game with Villanova, that game is an advanced sellout.
Game Notes: Penn outrebounded Villanova, 37-34, the 10th time this season the Quakers have outboarded their opponent … For the fourth time this season, the freshman class combined for more points in a game than any of the other classes … For the first time this season, Penn’s bench players scored more points (26) than the starters (21) … Penn had just one steal, tied for a team low in the Jerome Allen coaching era … Villanova committed just six turnovers, tied for an opponent low in the Allen era … Antonio Woods had a 18 points, a season/career high, for his fifth double-figure scoring game this season … Woods became the fifth different player to lead Penn in scoring in a game this season (Tony Hicks, Darien Nelson-Henry, Mike Auger, Sam Jones) … Woods also tied a season/career high with three three-point baskets; he originally hit a trio of treys against Lafayette … For the fourth time in hisseven appearances this season, Auger led Penn in rebounding (9) which tied a season/career high.