When Penn and Villanova tip off at 7:30 tonight at the First Union Center, Big 5 history will be made. And NCAA history may be soon to follow. Tonight's contest marks the first time that a City Series game will be played on the hardwood of Philadelphia's largest basketball arena. The game will also decide whether the Wildcats (12-8, 3-0 Big 5) can finish their Big 5 schedule as undefeated champions -- or whether the Quakers (7-11, 0-3) can eke out their first and only City Series win of the season. Despite the Philly intrigue, Penn coach Fran Dunphy characteristically sees the contest as just another chance for a win. "In all honesty, we're looking to win against Villanova," Dunphy said. "The fact that they could be 4-0 or that we might be 0-4 isn't really what we're thinking about." Just as the City Series will be adding to its record books tonight, so too will the NCAA. Villanova sophomore Gary Buchanan likes to call free throws "free points," and the 6'4" guard is doing his best to make good on each of his opportunities from the charity stripe. After hitting a pair of second-half freebies in an 89-74 loss at the hands of Boston College on Sunday, Buchanan extended his consecutive free-throw streak to 63, one short of the NCAA Division I record established by Joe Dykstra of Western Illinois in 1981-82. If Buchanan hits another pair against the Quakers tonight, he will take possession of the record and up his season mark from the line to 73-of-74 (98.6 percent). "I think it's a great thing to see," Dunphy said of the potential record. "If you were to say that he gets the record and we win, I'd be very happy." Buchanan's record-challenging shots might be fun for 'Nova fans to watch down on South Broad Street, but junior center Michael Bradley is undoubtedly the main attraction for the Wildcats these days. The 6'10" transfer from Kentucky has become a darling of the national media by dazzling opponents with his shockingly efficient offensive prowess. Against B.C. on Sunday, Bradley scored 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. He was 9-of-11 from the field (81.8 percent), marking the 11th time this season that Bradley has sunk better than 70 percent of his field goal attempts in a game. Bradley's overall field goal percentage is 69.5, but if you throw out the 27 shots that he has taken from beyond the three-point line, he is connecting on a jaw-dropping 73.4 from two-point range. In Big East play, Bradley is averaging 24.2 points and 10.6 boards per contest. "He's an extremely talented basketball player," Dunphy said. "We're going to have to deal with him, but we're not going to do a lot different from what we normally do against a great player. We can't focus fully on him and let guys like [Villanova forward] Ricky Wright score on us." Tonight's contest marks Penn's final non-conference game on its schedule, and 'Nova looks somewhat vulnerable at this point in its campaign. The Wildcats have lost their last three games and six of their last eight, due in large part to an inability to take care of the basketball. Villanova has turned over the ball 172 times in their past eight outings for an average of 21.5 give-aways per game. That said, the Quakers are not about to apply much more full-court pressure than they usually do in order to exploit Villanova's recent turnover woes. "We do press some in every game, and we're going to do that, and maybe press a little more if it's working," Dunphy said. "But we're not going to change what we do at this point in the season."Comments powered by Disqus
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