Penn takes on new-look Villanova in Big 5 tilt
The Wildcats lost their senior stars, but slowing the Big East foes will still be a tall order for Penn
December 2, 2011, 12:59 am·
Rachel Bleustein | DP
Follow our liveblog of the Penn-Villanova game here.
It’s no secret that storied Big 5 rivalries make for high-intensity hoops matchups.
That will be no different tomorrow night at the Pavilion, when Penn takes on Villanova in its second Big 5 contest of the year.
“For the most part, the history of the Big 5 has been documented, and these guys know a lot of their players from playing on the same teams in summer leagues,” coach Jerome Allen said. “So it’s a big one for us.”
While the Quakers certainly expect the same atmosphere that comes with any Big 5 game, when they take the Wildcats’ court Saturday night, Penn (4-4, 0-1 Big 5) will be facing an entirely different team than last year’s Villanova (4-2, 1-0) squad.
“Coach [Jay] Wright does an excellent job of recruiting [around] the nation, and one thing’s inevitable: there’s graduation,” Allen said.
This season, the Wildcats are without graduated standout guard Corey Stokes, who put up extraordinary numbers in a 65-53 victory over the Red and Blue last season. Stokes netted 34 points — breaking his previous career high of 22 — shooting 11-for-15 from the field.
Additionally, ’Nova has graduated explosive scoring guard Corey Fisher as well as the team’s glue guy, forward Antonio Pena.
But despite the fact that they feature no senior starters, the Wildcats make up for the void with great depth.
“It’s obvious [junior guard] Maalik Wayns gets a lot of their publicity and stuff,” sophomore guard Miles Cartwright said. “[But] they have a lot of guys who can score and put it on the floor and do a lot of great things for them.”
Wayns averages 20 points per game so far this season as the Wildcats’ main offensive threat.
But even with the impressive performances of both Wayns and junior Mouphtaou Yarou, who averages 15.2 points and eight boards per game, the ’Cats have fallen out of the Top 25 rankings.
“It’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint,” Allen said. “So where they’re at right now in terms of how other people view them on a national scene is neither here nor there for coach Wright. I know he has a talented basketball team, and they’ll be well prepared, ready to play.”
And after dropping back-to-back games against Saint Louis and Santa Clara on the West Coast, the Wildcats will no doubt be looking to regain ground tomorrow in a game that will be broadcast on ESPN 3.
On Penn’s side, the concern will be looking to avoid the down-to-the-wire losses that have plagued the team this season. For the Red and Blue, it will be a matter of playing consistently throughout the entire 40 minutes.
“We’ve had trouble finding the offense in the first half, and we just need to get off to a good start,” Cartwright said. “We don’t want to dig ourselves a big hole — especially against Villanova on the road — so we have to be aggressive from the start and have a lot of intensity, and I think we’ll have a great chance to win this game.”
Senior guard Zack Rosen’s impressive 58-percent shooting from behind the three-point line will be on the radar for Villanova’s defense. But according to Allen, it will take a little more effort from the entire squad to walk away with a win.
“At the end of the day, it comes down to just trying to play solid defense, rebound the ball, and not turn it over and score a couple of baskets.”