Coming off a strong showing in the Bahamas at the Battle 4 Atlantis, the No. 14 Villanova Wildcats will host the Penn Quakers Wednesday night at the Pavilion. For the Wildcats, it is their first engagement in Big 5 basketball action.
The Wildcats are returning home after knocking off No. 6 Kansas and No. 23 Iowa en route to winning the championship at the Thanksgiving holiday tournament on Paradise Island. Head Coach Jay Wright will once again look to the grit and hustle of his squad to pump out the victory.
"We have players that like to play with a high energy," stated Wildcats head coach Jay Wright. "Josh Hart is an example of that. He's a freshman but it's not us - he was playing that way before he came to us. I think now he's inspiring his teammates. Ryan Arcidiacono played that way naturally before he came here.
"We want to play that way and it's hard to do for three nights in a row. That's something we were proud of - how hard we played for two and half of the three games. On the last night, I thought we played hard in the second half but were sluggish in the first half."
The Wildcats will continue to play their Big 5 opponents into the middle of December, taking on Saint Joseph's in the "Holy War" on Saturday and wrapping up with La Salle on December 15.
Villanova is led by Big East Player of the Week, senior guard James Bell. Bell has averaged 17 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 44.7 percent from the floor through seven games for the Wildcats. Junior forward, JayVaughn Pinkston, is leading the team in scoring with 17.1 points per game and grabs 4.3 rebounds per game as well.
Though the Wildcats have two big scorers in Pinkston and Bell, there are two other players in double figures to round out the four above 10 points per contest. Darrun Hilliard (13 points, 5.3 rebounds) and Dylan Ennis (12 points, three boards, 66.7 percent from deep) will be valuable options for Coach Wright. Josh Hart (8.3 points and 5.1 rebounds) and Kris Jenkins (4.1 points and 2.3 rebounds) will add a spark off the bench.
But despite how well balanced the 'Cats are, Wright isn't forgetting about his matchup from University City.
"This is a very good team," stated Wright. "We know this will be a battle. It's a Big Five game and I think our guys understand how passionate these games are."
The Quakers are paced by sophomore guard, Tony Hicks, who's been averaging 19 points per game for Penn. Senior guard Miles Jackson-Cartwright rounds out the backcourt and adds 11.8 points per game as well and scored 16 points in last season's 68-55 loss to the Wildcats.
The game will be televised at 8:00 p.m. on Fox Sports 1 and heard on WHAT 1340 radio in the Philadelphia region.