No. 4 Villanova rolls by Big 5 foe Penn
VILLANOVA, Pa. — Villanova not only extended its amazing Big 5 winning streak to 19 games.
The Wildcats did it with ease.
Jalen Brunson scored 17 points, Mikal Bridges added 14 and fourth-ranked Villanova blitzed past rival Penn 90-62 for its 19th consecutive Big 5 victory Wednesday at the Jake Nevin Field House on campus.
“It’s not (easy),” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “They (Penn) compete on every play. The score isn’t indicative all the time of what the score was.”
Omari Spellman and Phil Booth contributed 14 points apiece and Donte DiVincenzo added 12 for the Wildcats (7-0), who thrilled the sellout crowd of 1,500 deafening fans at this tiny venue next door to The Pavilion. The Field House opened in 1931 and the Big 5 made its debut in the 1956-57 season.
“It was honestly awesome,” Brunson said of the atmosphere. “It was definitely a great experience. It was hard to hear Coach sometimes. I tried to read his lips. I couldn’t really hear him.”
The Pavilion, is undergoing a $60 million renovation this season and this was one of three home games outside of the Wells Fargo Center.
This win over Penn was the Wildcats’ 15th straight in the series.
“If you don’t come to play against (Penn coach) Steve’s (Donahue) teams, you’ll be in for a battle,” Wright said. “And we came to play.”
AJ Brodeur led Penn (5-4) with 15 points while Darnell Foreman added 13.
The Quakers needed a whole lot more against the red-hot Wildcats.
“On tape, Villanova doesn’t jump out at you,” Donahue said. “What is now apparent is that there’s not a tougher, smarter or more selfless team than Villanova.”
Sophomore Ryan Betley, the reigning Ivy League Player of the Week, who played 55 minutes in Saturday’s four-overtime win at Monmouth and scored 26 points, two short of his career high, struggled against Villanova.
Betley finished with 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting.
“We kind of beat ourselves,” Betley said. “Obviously, they’re a great team. We have so much to work on.”
Villanova kept the pressure on after halftime with tenacious defense and hot shooting. Brunson’s deep 3-pointer gave the Wildcats a 61-40 lead with 13:02 remaining.
Brunson followed with a conventional three-point play for a 68-45 advantage.
A Penn turnover late led to Bridges’ coast-to-coast dunk and a 74-47 lead with 8:38 left.
From there, the game was essentially decided.
The Wildcats shot 57 percent overall with a consistent effort throughout to extend the Big 5 winning streak.
“We’re motivated to reach his (Wright’s) bar,” Donahue said. “He set it.”
The Wildcats ran out to a 37-19 lead and entered the locker room with a commanding 46-28 advantage thanks in large part to 56 percent shooting (15 of 27).
Penn, meanwhile, shot 10 of 29 and just 1 of 10 from beyond the arc.
NOTES: Villanova improved to 27-0 in the month of November since 2013. The last Wildcats loss in this month came against La Salle in overtime in 2012. ... Penn has only won 18 of the 65 all-time meetings between the schools. ... This was Penn’s ninth game in November, a program record. ... Coach Jay Wright earned his 393rd career win at Villanova. ... The Wildcats are now 11-0 all-time against the Quakers on campus with the previous 10 wins coming at The Pavilion. ... Villanova will play its second Big 5 game on Saturday with a trip to archrival Saint Joseph’s in what is dubbed as the “Holy War.”