#17 Villanova Wildcats (9-2) vs. Penn Quakers (5-6)
When: Monday, December 28, 2015, at 7 p.m.
Where: The Pavilion
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
Penn’s Previous Season Record: 9-19
Key Players for Penn: #10 Darien Nelson-Henry (6-11, 265) Sr., C; #2 Antonio Woods (6-1, 180) So., G; #14 Sam Jones (6-7, 175) So., G
Scouting Report: The Villanova Wildcats will try to improve to 3-0 in Big 5 play against a struggling Penn team. Both teams come into this one relatively cold. The Quakers have lost five of their last six, and Villanova has dropped two of its last four. A win on Monday would put the Wildcats on track for their third consecutive sweep of the Big 5.
Penn is anchored by big man Darien Nelson-Henry. Nelson-Henry paces the team in points, rebounds, blocks, shooting percentage, and free throws made. Nelson-Henry is averaging just short of a double-double with 13.3 points per game and 9.4 boards per game. He is on his way to career highs in every meaningful statistical category, Nelson-Henry is a legit threat in the post, and could give the Wildcat bigs some trouble. The Quaker front court also features three-point marksman Sam Jones. “The Flash” has hit 35 of Penn’s 76 made three-pointers, and is shooting 38% from downtown. At 6-foot-7, Jones is an interesting match up at forward and also contributes 4.5 rebounds per game.
In the back court, the Quakers feature guards Antonio Woods and Matt Howard. Woods leads the team in assists and is shooting a career high 40.2% from the field. He’s also limiting his turnovers to under two per game and has connected on 13 three-pointers this year. One major flaw in Woods’ game is free throw shooting. At just 50%, Woods is very below average, especially for a point guard. Howard is also a solid all-around guard. Despite being 6-foot-4, Howard is second on the team in rebounding at just under five per game. Howard is also shooting 46.5% from the field and has hit 11 three-pointers this year.
It’s not hard to see why Penn is struggling so much this year. The Quakers shoot just 43% as a team from the field and just 28.4% from long range. The Quakers offensive woes don’t stop there however. Penn has a tendency to beat itself, shooting just 65.4% from the line and averaging 13 turnovers per game, making it very challenging to close out tight games.
Outlook: This game should not be much of a challenge for Villanova. The ‘Cats have a lot of distinct advantages over the Quakers and will look to exploit them. Despite a disappointing month of December for Villanova, there are plenty of silver linings that give hope for the future. The Wildcats are finally shooting a little better from long-range. Their 31.7% clip still does not warrant them to take as many threes as they do, but it is nice to see they finally climbed above the 30% mark. Lastly, Villanova remains a top ten defensive team in the country, which can always remedy a multitude of sins.
Vegas has ‘Nova by 25.5 and I Don’t think that’s too farfetched. Villanova will start Big East play at 10-2.