Losses to La Salle and Temple had the Villanova Wildcats (5-4) in danger of going 0-for-4 in the Big 5. Against the Penn Quakers, the Wildcats took care of business and secured their first Big 5 win of the 2012-2013 season.
Villanova came away with the 68-55 win, their first Big 5 win of the season, but struggled heavily throughout the game that featured two teams who couldn’t find many positives in their offense.
“Really not pretty, but pretty to us,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “I give Penn a lot of credit, they played with a lot of energy, quickness on the perimeter, their young guards were really good.”
Villanova guard Achraf Yacoubou led the way in scoring for the Wildcats, scoring 13 points off of 4-of-7 shooting (57 percent) and six rebounds in 25 minutes.
“Ach is a good example of our team, we know he has talent and can play, he’s learning what we do,” Wright said. “Last year, as a young freshman, he struggled with that a little bit, but he’s gotten better and better every day in practice, we used him a lot today and he got his opportunity. That’s what our team is like, I think if everybody on our team can improve like Ach has, we can continue to improve.”
“It goes to show that if I keep listening to everything coach says and take everything in, then I’m going to be good,” Yacoubou added.
Forward Jayvaughn Pinkston helped off the bench, putting up 10 points and three rebounds. Guard Ryan Arcidiacono, who scored 12 points while turning the ball over four times, only saw a season-low 25 minutes of action because of early foul troubles. The freshman guard had four fouls at the 13:38 mark of the second half and saw limited action after.
The Wildcats didn’t put together many significant runs, but continued to answer Penn buckets and forced the Quakers to have a poor shooting night, enough to force a 13-of-39 (33.3 percent) shooting display from the the field.
Penn was fueled by the play of guard Miles Cartwright, who shot 2-of-6 (33.3 percent) for 16 points. Cartwright also had a team-high four turnovers that hurt the Quakers’ comeback attempt.
Quakers guard Steve Rennard contributed 12 points, going 2-of-4 from beyond the arc and hitting six free throws.
Both teams shot poorly in the first half, as Villanova only hit 10-of-26 (38.5 percent) while the Quakers did no better, hitting on 4-of-17 (23.5 percent). It wasn’t any better beyond the arc for the two teams; Villanova went 4-of-13 (30.8 percent) from deep, while Penn shot an abysmal 2-of-10 (20 percent) from a distance.
The second half was a different story, as the Wildcats and Quakers straightened out their offensive woes, bringing their average from the floor to 39.1 percent (18-of-46) and 33.3 percent (13-of-39), respectively.
For the young Quakers, who constantly battled to keep in the game until the very end, their head coach refuses to blame inexperience on the team’s slow start or take solace in well-played losses.
“I’m not into moral victories,” Penn coach Jerome Allen said. “But at the end of the day, our staff prepares this team to win basketball games, not come close and not to have just a solid showing. In my opinion, it’s so hard, the expectations are extremely high and we’re not doing a good enough job of locking into those expectations or carrying the same habits and merit those expectations on a consistent basis.
“You would think nine games into the season, we can’t use our inexperience as a cheap crutch.”
While neither team could shoot well, both Villanova and Penn made their damage at the free throw line, making multiple trips to the charity stripe for a combined 71 times (Penn 33, Villanova 38). Penn scored 22 points from the line, while Villanova collected 26 points.
Turnovers and fouls were an issue for both squads. The Wildcats and Quakers turned the ball over a combined 32 times (Villanova with 15, Penn with 17) and committed a combined 52 fouls (22 for Villanova, 30 for Penn).
Penn travels to Delaware for a battle with the Blue Hens on December 21st, while Villanova prepares for the Holy War when the visiting St. Joseph’s Hawks travel to the Pavilion on Tuesday, December 11th. The Wildcats’ final Big 5 game tips off at 7:00PM.