VILLANOVA, Pa. - If the Penn men's basketball team learned anything from Friday night's season opener at Penn State to Monday night's contest against Villanova, it was this: there is a big difference between a team that won an NIT title a year ago, and a team that made it to the NCAA's Final Four.
Villanova has a lot of key components back from last year's 30-win squad, and what we also learned is that newcomers aren't too bad either. The combination was way too much for the Quakers, who were essentially run out of the Wildcats' Pavilion Monday night and lost, 103-65.
Villanova (2-0) was ranked fifth in the preseason AP media poll, sixth in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll. The Wildcats looked every bit of that on Monday night, scoring every which way and dominating the Quakers in every facet of the game.
If there was a highlight for Penn (0-2), it came early. Darren Smith, looking much more comfortable on the floor after missing nearly two full seasons with a fractured kneecap, knocked down a three-point shot 1:45 into the game that put Penn up, 5-4.
Villanova scored the game's next 16 points, though, and that pretty much set the tone. By halftime it was 55-25, Wildcats. Head coach Glen Miller kept using timeouts to try and stem the tide, but nothing worked against a relentless Villanova attack.
The numbers in that opening stanza were staggering. Villanova seemed to get to the basket at will and shot 58 percent from the field (18-of-31); the 'Cats also knocked down six of its 13 three-point shots. Penn, by contrast, was just above 25 percent (7 of 27) and resorted to the trey but hit just four of its 17 attempts. The Wildcats had nine assists and four turnovers; the Quakers had four assists and 10 turnovers.
Any ideas that the second half might be different were quickly extinguished, as Corey Fisher scored five points in the first 45 seconds and Antonio Pena dunked a Corey Stokes miss to make the score 62-25.
Villanova was playing its much-ballyhooed freshman class together with more than eight minutes remaining, and during that time Penn was able to get things going offensively with a 10-1 run. Still, Villanova got to the 100-point mark with just about a minute to play when Russell Wooten scored on a putback.
Smith led all scorers with a career-high 21 points, knocking down four three-pointers in the game. Rob Belcore scored 16 points, while Zack Rosen had six assists and just one turnover.
For Villanova, six players finished in double figures led by Maalik Wayns (16 points). Antonio Pena had 12 points and nine rebounds, while Corey Fisher recorded 13 points, eight assists, and four steals.
Penn plays its first home game of the 2009-10 season Saturday, hosting Delaware at 7 p.m.
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