VILLANOVA, PA. 12/4/2019 – The nationally ranked Villanova Wildcats and the defending Big Five Champions the University of Pennsylvania Quakers. Need to say much more?
Last season Penn upended Nova 78 – 75 at the Palestra. It snapped a 15-game losing streak to the Cats and ended the Villanova record 25-game win streak in the city series.
New season, new game, but it was another tough and gritty match. Villanova won this old school battle 80 – 69. The game was much closer than the final score indicated.
“The reason this game was like that and always is that we all know each other so well,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “The players know each other and play against each other in the summer. It was so hard to score because we know what they do, and they know what we do. You had to be mentally tough in that game. It’s a good win for us.”
The game was decided inside. Of the 119 shots taken in the game only 29 were three-pointers. The points in the paint total favored the Wildcats 48 – 44 over the Quakers. The game plan each way was get to the basket, take away the three. Villanova forward Saddiq Bey became a focal point of the Wildcats offense. He scored a career-high 27 points making 10 of 18 from the field and was 6 of 7 from the line.
“Coach was getting on us about trying to get down hill,” said Bey. “We were going to post up and go to the basket. They gave us the opportunity and we converted on that.”
Penn countered with the same plan. It almost worked.
“With three minutes to go I thought the plan was working, but we ran out of gas on the offensive end. For the most part we guarded them as well as we can.”
Villanova kept the lead, Penn would get close. Villanova kept the lead, Penn would not go away. The contest tilted in the Wildcats direction in the last three and a half minutes because of their defense. Leading by 68 – 64 Nova freshman forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl came up with a huge steal. On the possession freshman guard Justin Moore made a layup for a 6-point lead. The Quakers tried to catch up, but a deflection by Collin Gillespie was a disruption for the Red and Blue.
“That was a sign of us getting through that, the first time this year,” said Wright about the late game defense. “We’re learning how to do that and we need to experience that. “
Robinson-Earl scored 13 points and took down 12 rebounds for his fourth career double-double, and he stole the ball three times. Moore added 17 points. Gillespie had 11 points and 6 assists.
AJ Brodeur and Jordan Dingle lead the Quaker attack with each scoring 18 points. Brodeur pulled down 14 rebounds, a new season-high and added 6 assists.
“These games come down to poise and mental toughness, and that is no different than when we are in our league,” said Brodeur. “The consequences for not having that are more severe here.”
Devon Goodman scored 16 for Penn and dished out 5 assists. Ryan Betley added 13 points.
#22/23 Villanova improves to 6 – 2 and is 2 – 0 in the Big Five. The young Wildcats will learn more and more about city play as next up is Saint Joseph’s on Saturday.
“Everybody is going out every night and playing hard in those Big Five games,” said Robinson-Earl. “The games are so important to the teams in the area.”
The Quakers are 5 – 4 and will not play again until December 21 when they host Widener. They are 1 – 1 in the city series and will look to reap the benefits of the good, tough out of league contests.
“It’s challenging and that’s what I like about these non-conference games,” said Brodeur. “When play against Villanova, Providence and Arizona we are going to see athleticism that we don’t have in our league. If we can stay down and guard those guys, that is going to set us up great in our league.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian