Dan McQuade: Experience shows in Penn win

· December 12, 2002, 5:00 am

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Villanova is a talented basketball team. The Wildcats' highly-touted freshmen, Jason Fraser, Randy Foye and Allan Ray, may all play in the NBA one day.

On Tuesday night, however, the old guys taught the kids a thing or two.

Penn is a lineup that is dominated by seniors, as well as players who have been to the NCAA Tournament multiple times during their tenures in University City.

The Penn seniors have been to two NCAA Tournaments and played in a winner-take-all, loser-goes-home playoff for an NCAA berth last year. The Wildcats played in the NIT the last three seasons, but none of the intensity in those games matched playing in the Big Dance.

It showed.

Simply put, Penn played smarter on Tuesday against Villanova. And the 72-58 victory that the Quakers walked away with at the First Union Center shows that they played better.

Fraser only got three shots. Foye went 1-for-6. Ray went 3-for-9. The Wildcats were able to turn nine Penn turnovers into only three points. The Quakers converted 12 Villanova give-aways into 15 points.

A play midway through the second half typified the smart play of the Quakers. Andrew Toole drove left, a six-foot-four point guard slashing among the trees, namely six-foot-seven Andrew Sullivan and six-foot-eight Ricky Wright.

The Penn guard went around Derrick Snowden and pulled up for a four-foot finger roll over Sullivan. It rattled home.

Toole, a senior, made the perfect adjustment in the air in order to get it over Villanova's Sullivan and into the net.

By the end of the season, Villanova may end up becoming the better team. Penn was the better team Tuesday.

"We're not playing with as much confidence as I'd like," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "I think we're playing too tentatively offensively."

'Nova made a mini-run early in the second half, cutting the lead to seven at 39-32, but a Wright technical and a quick Toole three-pointer killed any chance of the Wildcats coming back.

"They're young," Penn caoch Fran Dunphy said. "Our guys didn't allow Villanova to make that last run. If they were more experienced, they may have gotten that last opportunity. But these guys stepped up, they made big plays."

There it is again -- experience. It's still early in the season. Penn has rebounded from some early difficulties and won two straight blowouts.

Villanova wasn't able to take advantage of its size advantage over the Quakers. Penn stayed close in rebounds for most of the contest, before the Wildcats' bench was able to swing the final margin their way, 35-28.

The Wildcats didn't pass the ball well enough and they left Penn wide open for too many three-pointers. 'Nova looked sluggish out on the court.

The Quakers' three-pointers "were timely," Dunphy said. "They were really important shots."

Villanova showed none of the intensity that was present in its previous Big 5 contest against La Salle -- a Wildcat win -- at the Palestra last Saturday.

"I felt good about the way we executed," Wright said. "I didn't feel good about the toughness and intensity that we did it with."

The Quakers doubled Ricky Wright, Villanova's most experienced player, and the 'Cats were not able to find anyone else open enough to get good shots.

The other upperclassmen on 'Nova didn't do much to help. Snowden was off most of the night, and senior Gary Buchanan didn't take enough shots.

Regardless of experience, toughness or anything else -- Penn was simply the better team on Tuesday night. The Quakers showed their experience in bouncing back from some early struggles to best a talented Villanova squad.

"The experience is important from where we were a couple of weeks ago to where we are now," Dunphy said. "These guys value what they're doing and they don't want to do anything but play their best all the time."

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