In regards to the Big Five, Rollie Massimino once said, “Every game is like going to the Final Four.” On paper, this game looked easy, but Jay Wright knew that Penn would provide a challenge for the Wildcats.
They surely did.
After racing out to a quick 13-6 lead, it appeared that Villanova was going to easily roll over Penn. The Wildcats started the game 6-for-11 on the floor, before going ice cold. Villanova was a mediocre 3-for-19 after a solid start to the game. Unlike in the previous two games, the three pointers were not falling for the Wildcats. In the first half alone, they made 4 of 14 shots from long range. Villanova would go on to shoot 6-for-18 from downtown for the whole night. Despite having some good looks at the basket, they could not capitalize. The shooting woes even followed them onto the free throw line. After having one of their best free throw shooting performances against Xavier, the Wildcats rehashed their struggles from the line. They were 1-for-6 in the first half and went on to finish 10-for-20 in the game. Fortunately for the them, their defense was in good shape once again. Penn turned the ball over 11 times (17 turnovers for the whole game) in the first half. The Wildcats contained the Quakers with their routine stifling on-ball pressure.
Mike Auger tipped the ball back in for Penn to supply the last couple of points for the first half. Villanova held onto a 23-21 lead.
In the second half, the Wildcats started pulling away from the Quakers. However, each time Villanova went on a little run, Penn’s Antonio Woods brought the Quakers back into the game. Woods enjoyed an excellent game and was a bright spot for Penn. He sank two crucial three pointers to bring them back to within one in the game. With 9:53 remaining in the game, Jay Wright called for a time out after Woods sank a three pointer to make the game 38-37. From there, the Wildcats exploded. With the perimeter game looking bleak, they had to look inside to get the job done. Daniel Ochefu rose to the occasion, picking up 15 of his 21 points in the second half alone. Ochefu seemed to be making almost everything: dunks, hook shots, layups, and free throws. As a team, Villanova shot better in the second half, making 56% of their shots. After Jay Wright’s time out, the Wildcats outscored the Quakers 21-10 for the rest of the game. Villanova built an insurmountable lead coming down the stretch, ultimately winning 62-47.
Daniel Ochefu led the way, picking up a double-double. He racked up 21 points and 10 rebounds, with four assists to go along with his performance. Dylan Ennis had 10 points and five assists. As for Penn, Antonio Woods was the lone player in double digit scoring. Woods had 18 points off of 7-for-12 shooting, including three baskets from long range.
Villanova improves to 17-1 overall for the season. They wrap up their out-of-conference schedule, finishing 13-0. This season marks the first time in program history that the Wildcats go undefeated in out-of-conference play. This win over Penn also brings a second consecutive Big Five title back to Villanova. The Wildcats have swept the Big Five once again.