After playing, perhaps, their best half of basketball of the young 2011-12 season, and taking a commanding 38-20 halftime lead, the Villanova Wildcats hung on to beat a tenacious Penn Quakers team 73-65 at the Pavilion on Saturday night.
Mouphtaou Yarou led the way for Villanova with a double-double, scoring 21 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. This was Yarou’s fourth double-double in seven games. He was joined in double figure scoring by freshman Darrun Hilliard (with a season high 13 points) and junior point guard Maalik Wayns who added 11 points (all scored in the second half). Zack Rosen paced the Quakers with 21 points, 15 of which were scored in the second half. Rosen also collected 6 rebounds and distributed 3 assists. Tyler Bernardini with 13 points, and Miles Cartwright with 12 points, joined Rosen in double figures for Penn.
The Wildcats ran out to a 12-2 lead at the 15:40 mark of the first half, hitting five of their first seven shots. The Cats cooled off soon thereafter and the Quakers closed the gap to 15-10 with 11:39 remaining in the half. With 11:06 remaining, Villanova’s star guard, Maalik Wayns, drew his second foul and had to sit out the rest of the half. However, the Wildcats did not let that deter them and began to warmup again, particularly from three-point range, and the lead ballooned to 32-16. Nova closed out the first half with a 38-20 lead on a buzzer beater by freshman Ty Johnson.
The Wildcats shot 51.7% in the first half, hitting on 15 of 29 shots (including 6 0f 10 three point shots). Villanova also dominated the boards by a 20 to 13 margin. The Quakers shot a chilly 29.2 %, hitting only 7 of 24 shots. Penn did not hit a three pointer in the first half.
Both teams started out the second half cold. However, Penn began heating up and after hitting their first two treys of the game, the Quakers cut the lead to 42-34. Six points by Mouph Yarou (and Maalik Wayns first basket of the game) put the Wildcats on top 50-40.
Don’t let it be said that there’s no fight in the Quakers. Just when it looked like Villanova had the game wrapped up, Zack Rosen hit a couple of long range three-point shots to reduce the lead to 63-57 with 45 seconds left in the contest. Yarou then scored a basket and converted a free-throw to make it 66-57 on the old fashioned three-point play. The Quakers continued to battle and a three by Tyler Bernardini, and another by Rosen, whittled the lead to four points, 69-65. The Wildcats James Bell canned four foul shots to keep the Quakers at bay, and Villanova won 73-65.
In the second half, Villanova shot a miserable 26.9%, hitting just 7 of 26 shots, including a feeble 7.7% from three point range (1 of 13). The Wildcats did manage to hit 20 of 24 shots from the charity stripe in the second half, which enabled them to maintain the lead throughout the game. Penn, on the other hand, shot 54.8% in the second half, and, after missing all nine of their three point shots in the opening half, hit 7 of 13 triples in the second half.
Villanova was without the services of Maurice Sutton who suffered a dislocated left thumb in practice this week and may miss the next three to four weeks as he recovers. Markus Kennedy also missed the game with a shoulder injury (after colliding with teammate JayVaughn Pinkston in practice).
In attendance at the game were several former Villanova players (including Malik Allen, Mike Nardi, and Randy Foye) and NBA head-coaches Larry Brown and Avery Johnson.
With the win, Villanova snapped a two-game losing streak and improved its record to 5-2 overall, 2-0 Big Five. With the loss, Penn fell to 4-5, 0-2 Big Five. Villanova will next play on Tuesday night, December 6th, at 7 p.m. against the undefeated (and ranked) Missouri Tigers in the Jimmy V. Classic at Madison Square Garden. The game will be televised on ESPN. This will mark Villanova’s second visit to the Jimmy V. Classic. In 2008, the Wildcats lost to Texas 67-56 at the Garden. Penn next plays on December 7th when it entertains Delaware at the Palestra.