Penn basketball comeback falls short at Villanova
Quakers drop matchup with 2010 Big 5 champion Wildcats
December 3, 2011, 9:17 pm · Updated December 5, 2011, 3:59 pm·
Alex Neier | DP
VILLANOVA, Pa. — Midway through the Quakers’ postgame press conference, senior captain Zack Rosen was handed the game’s box score.
He scanned the paper and, after a few moments, his facial expression — a mix of disgust and disappointment — told the tale of the entire game.
Penn played poorly to begin the contest, allowing Villanova to open an 18-point lead at halftime. While an improved defensive effort in the second half allowed the Quakers to work their way back into the game, the Wildcats held on to win, 73-65.
The Red and Blue (4-5, 0-2 Big 5) proved unable to contain Villanova (5-2, 2-0) throughout the first half, allowing the Wildcats to shoot over 50 percent from the field.
“Sometimes it’s about more than X’s and O’s,” coach Jerome Allen said. “We didn’t come out confident.”
“We didn’t have any swag,” Rosen said.
Going into the game, the Quakers knew they had to contain Villanova junior Mouphtaou Yarou, and he proved to be a puzzle that Penn never quite figured out.
Yarou ended the game with a double-double: 21 points and 11 rebounds on 6-for-13 shooting from the field.
Villanova coach Jay Wright believed that Yarou had his best game of the season.
“With how physical Penn’s guys were being with him, he battled through,” Wright said.
Allen couldn’t help but give props to ’Nova’s big man.
“You can tell how good he is because his players look to get him the ball.”
In the second half, sophomore Cameron Gunter provided a much-needed physical presence inside for the Quakers. The entire squad responded and defended with more vigor, forcing tougher shots.
After shooting 52 percent from the field and draining six three-pointers in the first half, the Wildcats were held to only one trey in the second.
However, Villanova maintained its lead from the foul line, shooting 24 free throws — and hitting 20 — in the second half.
While the Red and Blue’s defense was weak to begin the game, Penn’s offense struggled early as well. The Quakers shot 0-for-9 from three-point land in the first half.
Meanwhile, Villanova junior Maalik Wayns played tough defense on Rosen, who ended the first half with just four points.
“Wayns did a great job on him,” Wright said. “When he gets going, it’s really tough to stop him.”
In the second half, Rosen proved just how difficult he was to stop. He finished the night with a team-high 21 points, including 6-for-7 shooting from the charity stripe and 3-for-4 from downtown.
As a team, Penn shot 55 percent from the field in the second half. The ball movement was much improved, allowing for easier opportunities to work inside.
The Red and Blue narrowed their deficit to four points with under a minute remaining, but that was as close as they would come.
In the end, Penn’s poor start — including eight turnovers in the first half — was too much to overcome against the Big East powerhouse.