On a weekend when Delaware and Villanova squared off on the hardwood and the gridiron, the Villanova hoopsters drew first blood by beating the Blue Hens 79-69 at the Pavilion on Friday night. Part two took place at PPL Park, home of the Philadelphia Union, on Saturday at 330pm, when the two teams faced off in the first ever American football game at the site.
Villanova quickly raced out to a 10-2 lead in basketball on the strength of three baskets and a free throw by Mouphtaou Yarou, and a trey by Darrun Hilliard. The Wildcats, paced by a very assertive Yarou, and point guard Maalik Wayns, led throughout the first half and took what looked like a commanding 14 point lead into the locker room. Yarou had 15 points, and Wayns had 13, at the break. For the Blue Hens, guard Devon Saddler, CAA rookie of the year last season, tossed in 12 first half points.
Delaware went on a 13-6 run to start the second half to cut the Wildcats lead in half, 44-37, with 15:55 to play. Saddler keyed the run by hitting two three-point shots. A few moments later, Jarvis Threatt hit a three-pointer and the Blue Hens drew within 4 points of the heavily favored Wildcats, 44-40. Villanova then rallied as Dominic Cheek, who was limited to two first half points, hit a three pointer. Wayns then scored on a drive and the lead was back up to 9 points, 49-40.
The teams continued to trade buckets and Villanova remained out in front throughout the second half. Cheek hit 5 of 9 second half shots, including three three-point shots (for a total of 19 points), to lead the way for Villanova. The Wildcats also got a very energetic second half contribution from Maurice Sutton, who grabbed 4 boards and scored three points (including a throw down on a nice assist by Wayns, which excited the crowd).
Villanova, which raised its record to 3-0 with the win, had three double figure scorers: Wayns and Cheek both had 21, and Yarou finished with 19. The Wildcats were led in rebounding by Darrun Hilliard with 6 boards. James Bell, who had a quiet night scoring, was Villanova’s assist leader with 7, and did not commit a turnover. Overall, Villanova shot 48.2% from the field, hitting 27 of 56 shots. The Wildcats hit 8 of 22 three-point shots (36.4 %), and pulled down 34 rebounds. Nova also had 19 assists in the game, against just 10 turnovers.
Delaware, which fell to 0-2 on the season, was led by Saddler, the high scorer in the game, with 27 points on 11 of 26 shooting (to go along with his 4 rebounds and 4 assists). Freshman guard Kyle Anderson, who missed Delaware’s first game with an injury, chipped in 12 points, hitting four three-pointers. Another freshman, Jarvis Threatt, added 11 points. Kelvin McNeill topped the Blue Hens in rebounding with 9. The Blue Hens out-rebounded Villanova 36-34.
Next up for Villanova is a trip to Anaheim, California, where the Wildcats will take part in the 76 Classic. Villanova’s trip out west begins with a Thanksgiving Day matinee against UC Riverside. The Wildcats then return home on December 3rd to play the Penn Quakers in a Big Five contest at the Pavilion.
The next day, at PPL Park, the Delaware Blue Hens overcame a 16-13 deficit in the 4th quarter to beat the Villanova Wildcats, for the first time in six years, 26-16. The loss put a damper on an outstanding performance by Villanova freshman Jamal Abdur-Rahman, who gained almost 300 all-purpose yards, and rushed for two touchdowns in a losing effort. Abdur-Rahman, an emerging star for the Wildcats, ran for a net of 119 yards and 2 touchdowns (58 yards and 43 yards), returned kicks for 151 yards, and caught 2 passes for 21 yards. Abdur-Rahman’s performance was so good, Coach Andy Talley remarked that he didn’t remember even Brian Westbrook, the former Villanova and Philadelphia Eagles star, having such a game as a freshman.
In the second part of the weekend battle between the Blue Hens and the Wildcats, the two teams played the first American football game at scenic PPL Park, the home of the Philadelphia Union of the MLS. Delaware took a quick 3-0 lead, following a game opening 61 yard kickoff return by Travis Hawkins to the Villanova 39 yard line. Sean Baner culminated the drive, which stalled on the Wildcats 10 yard line, by kicking a 26 yard field goal, the first of four he made in the game.
With 6:25 to go in the first quarter, Villanova drove from their own 43 to the Delaware 2 yard line. Mark Hamilton kicked a 19 yard field goal to tie the game on the last play of the quarter. Perhaps it was karma that the first two scores in the game, came from kicks on the soccer pitch.
Early in the second quarter, Abdur-Rahman electrified the crowd of 14,107, by racing 58 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown, to put Villanova in the lead. The touchdown was the first ever scored in the PPL Park venue. On its next possession, Delaware took advantage of a Villanova offside penalty on the kickoff to gain good field position. The Blue Hens drove 40 yards in 10 plays before stalling. Baner kicked a 34 yard field goal to make it a 10-6 game.
Villanova reciprocated by driving to the Blue Hens 15 yard line on the strength of a 50 yard dash by senior running back Lawrence Doss. However, the drive died and a scoring opportunity was lost, when Chris Polony’s pass was picked off by Ricky Tunstall in the end zone. This was Tunstall’s third interception in his last two games.
Delaware then proceeded to march 80 yards in 16 plays, 13 of which were carries by Andrew Pierce, to score a go ahead touchdown. Pierce plunged into the endzone from the 1 as the Blue hens took a 13-10 lead, a mere 12 seconds before the half. Pierce carried the ball 26 times for 87 yards in the first half. Delaware dominated the time of possession in the opening half, controlling the ball for 20 minutes and 44seconds. Villanova had the ball for 9:13 in the first half.
Villanova opened the second half by driving to the Delaware 10 yard line where Quarterback Chris Polony fumbled and the Blue Hens’ Patrick Callaway recovered the football, thus killing another promising scoring opportunity. However, the Wildcats struck pay-dirt on their next drive to reclaim the lead. The score came on nifty 43 yard run by Abdur-Rahman, his second touchdown of the game. Mark Hamilton’s extra point try was blocked and Villanova led 16-13, a lead the Wildcats would take into the fourth quarter.
Delaware tied the game at 16 all on a 40 yard field goal by Baner. The Hens appeared to have benefitted from a missed call on a sideline catch by Niahja White on a 3rd and 11. The replay showed the receiver out of bounds.
Delaware took the lead for good on another field goal by Baner, this one a 29 yarder. The Blue Hens clinched the victory in the annual Battle of the Blue, when Ricky Tunstall again picked off Polony and ran it back 54 yards for a touchdown.
Once again turnovers cost Villanova the game, as they did for much of the season. Villanova had 3 turnovers, 2 interceptions and a fumble. Two of the turnovers occurred in the Red Zone, costing the Wildcats a chance to tack on points.
With the win, Delaware improved its record to 7-4, 5-3 CAA. The Blue Hens are hoping this win will pave the way for a playoff berth. For the young Wildcats, who started a total of 10 freshmen in the game, their record fell to 2-9, 1-7 CAA. Although Coach Talley was disappointed with the loss, in a game he thought his team could have won, he believes that the future is bright with all of the young Villanova players gaining valuable experience for their return next season.
You can view an expanded photo slideshow of the basketball game below
[photo credit: Christian Hafer]