Most mismatches don’t have a Cinderella ending.
Against No. 17 Villanova, Penn was overwhelmed in the first half of a 77-57 loss and never fully recovered. The loss was the second straight to a Big Five opponent for the Quakers (5-7), while the Wildcats (10-2) improved to 3-0 against their Philadelphia foes.
Out of the gate, the Wildcats were ferocious, pressuring Penn up and down the court en route to a quick 14-0 lead. Villanova senior forward Daniel Ochefu plagued the Quakers throughout the first half, scoring nine points in the early run.
For the entirety of the first half, Penn couldn’t find any semblance of offensive rhythm. Sophomore forward Sam Jones broke the scoreless drought with a three-pointer five minutes into the game, but the Quakers went cold for nearly 10 minutes and ended the half with just 11 points.
Senior center Darien Nelson-Henry netted six in the first half, including two baskets on offensive rebounds. For the most part though, Penn tried to funnel its offense to the wings, but the team shot just 1-for-16 from three on the half.
Late in the half, sophomore guard Antonio Woods went down with an injury to his lower left leg and did not return. He exited the floor under his own power and returned to the bench for the second half.
In the second half, something changed for Penn. The shots that were missing started finding the bottom of the net. The defense tightened up on Villanova’s shooters. Down 28 at the half, a comeback was out of the question, but the Quakers fought until the end.
Penn immediately found more offensive success behind first-time starter Jackson Donahue, who scored all 18 of his points in the second half. After making just one three-pointer as a team in the first half, the Quakers knocked down six in the second.
As a whole, Penn managed to outscore the Wildcats 46-38 in the second half.
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