Taylor Swift may well have a challenger for the title of revenge master.
A year after Penn halted Villanova’s 25-game win streak in the Big Five, the Wildcats eased the pain of last season’s upset by beating the Quakers, 80-69, on Wednesday night in the Finneran Pavilion. It was the team’s second consecutive Big Five victory, having beaten La Salle on Sunday.
Sophomore Saddiq Bey led the team with a career-high 27 points, while freshman Justin Moore, the reigning Big East Freshman of the Week, continued to impress in his first year on the Main Line, scoring 17 points of his own.
The game remained close throughout its entirety with the largest lead for either team being the 11-point separation shown on the scoreboard at the contest’s end.
An 11-0 run divided between the closing minutes of the first half and the opening moments of the second seemed to create some separation for Villanova, but a disciplined Penn team continued to fight back. In the end, it was the Wildcats who were able to get the necessary stops defensively, holding Penn to just three points over the final 2:55 of game time.
The Quakers were led by senior AJ Brodeur who scored 18 points and grabbed 14 boards for The Red and Blue.
Freshman Jeremiah Robinson Earl remarked on the challenges of guarding the 2018-19 First-Team All-Ivy player.
“It tests your stamina and your mindset to really be locked in to guarding him,” Robinson-Earl said. “He was making some tough shots.”
For its part, Villanova’s offensive attack on Wednesday was a far cry from the three-point heavy Wildcat teams of recent years. Wright’s squad was determined to get the ball inside, consistently backing down Penn’s smaller defenders in pursuit of easy baskets. The strategy paid off in a big way, as ‘Nova racked up a total of 48 points in the paint. The Wildcats attempted a mere 10 three-pointers on the night, connecting on four. Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright attributed the minimal perimeter output to the opponent’s defensive tactics.
“Even in years past when we beat them [Penn], we didn’t get threes,” Wright said. “They’re very committed to their style of play and they execute it really well. You know they’re not going to break down.”
With the three-point line closely guarded, the ‘Cats relied on back to the basket play to generate offense, a decision that fit perfectly into the strengths of the broad-shouldered Bey.
“I just tried to take what the defense gives,” Bey said. “They make you take tough shots even when you feel like you’re in one-on-one. Just all the practice of post moves. It’s the repetition and habits of trying to finish with both hands.”
Another Big Five battle awaits the Wildcats next, with the team scheduled to face St. Joe’s on Saturday at 3 p.m.