For a split second that seemed to transcend reality, it appeared that Miles Jackson-Cartwright wasn't afraid of the big moment.
Jackson-Cartwright sprinted to the top of the key and looked for his opportunity to strike. He found it with eight minutes left in the first half and at that moment, down 31-9. Swish. He grinned. Following a missed JayVaughn Pinkston jumper, he grabbed the rock, pump faked around Darrun Hilliard and sent up a prayer. Bang.
The senior guard would strike from deep two more times before the half was over and changed an embarrassing Penn defecit, to something manageable. Nearly twenty minutes later, Penn was within eight points of the Wildcats and looking to turn the tide. But then the Wildcats woke up.
Villanova ended the game on a 19-4 run capped by a Dylan Ennis And-1 opportunity. The No. 14 Wildcats beat the Quakers 77-54 on Wednesday night at the Pavilion, in the sloppiest game they've played all season. Hilliard led all scorers with 19 points on 5-for-10 shooting from the field and 4-for-6 from deep. The win marks the Wildcats' (8-0) 11th straight win over the Quakers (2-5).
From the Associated Press
"I don't think the Bahamas really gave us a big head," Hilliard said, "but you can't look past anybody."
With Villanova's 46-28 lead at the half, they seemed to overlook their opponent before the final twenty minutes were played. Bad decision.
The Wildcats coughed up 15 turnovers, the fourth straight game they've given up 12 or more turnovers to their opponents and sixth time this season. Villanova shot a miserable 18.2 percent from behind the arc in the second half and allowed the Quakers to crawl back into the game.
In addition to Hilliard's performance, Pinkston added 13 points on 11-for-14 from the line and grabbed seven boards. Ennis was the third Villanova player in double digits, finishing the contest with 11 points while swinging five assists and nabbing five boards.
"I like being ranked, I really do," coach Jay Wright said. "It's great for the fans, great for Philadelphia basketball. Nothing bad about it."
The Quakers were paced by Jackson-Cartwright and his 17 points, while shooting 4-for-7 from the arc, all in the first half. Freshman guard Tony Bagtas, who entered the game not averaging anything, played 36 minutes and collected seven points, nine assists and six rebounds.
"I thought our guys played with energy and effort," Penn coach Jerome Allen said. "Whether they always played smart or not, it's a different story. But at least I thought they competed. But it's my responsibility to get these guys to, not just compete, but expect to win."
The Wildcats face Big 5 foe Saint Joseph's on Saturday at Hagan Arena. The Hawks are coming off a 77-69 loss to Big 5 rival, Temple University, Wednesday night at the Liacouras Center.
Arch arguably played his worse game this season, not making his first bucket until the game was out of reach with almost four minutes to go. He shot a tumultuous 1-for-10 from the field and dished two assists in 33 minutes.
|James Bell||C+||Another inefficient performance for James Bell. To top it off, the Big East Player of the Week had a team-high five turnovers and shot 5-for-12 from the field while scoring 14 points and grabbing eight boards. Bell was a great asset down the stretch for the Wildcats, but he was also a detriment for most of the game.|
|Daniel Ochefu||D||The only time Ochefu scored was from the free throw line and he wasn't even perfect from there. In only 12 minutes of play, he didn't do much of anything right outside of a nice block. Though he didn't play much and didn't get the start because of "academic issues" he wasn't too impressive for extra playing time either.|
|Darrun Hilliard||A||Villanova's saving grace against the Quakers and the main reason the Wildcats didn't lose the lead in the second half when the Quakers were surging, that and Penn just couldn't score the ball. He had a career high in makes from the arc and had 19 points, can't be made with his performance in anyway.|
|Josh Hart||C+||Hart gets this grade because of his stellar play in the first half, but after that, he was pretty much nonexistent. He started with eight points in 11 minutes of play and then fizzled out. Not one of his memerable performances at the Pavilion.|
|Tony Chennault||C||Got the start and made absolutely no noise. If Chennault would have been a factor offensively besides simply touching the ball and moving it around the arc, he may have played more minutes in the second half. He had three assists and no points in 22 minutes. Snooze button.|
|JayVaughn Pinkston||B+||Pinkston pulled his weight against the gangly Penn frontcourt. He found his way to the cup more than once while drawing contact and getting opportunities at the line, where he only missed three times. Without Ochefu to grab boards, his seven rebounds went a long way for in transition opportunities.|
|Dylan Ennis||B-||Wasn't too impressed with Ennis tonight. He had two steals, but after the steal he either turned the ball over or missed an opportunity to score. He missed four shots from deep but had 11 points, five boards and five assists in 24 minutes. It's hard to love his performance, but it's also hard to hate it.|
|Kris Jenkins||C+||Jenkins didn't do much to hurt the Wildcats in the 11 minutes he played. He made two shots and missed two shots. But his foul trouble kept him a tad limited. Ehhhh.|
|A||Did a great job as usual of keeping the team energized. If there's any bright spot in the game, it's the boys on the bench getting rowdy.|
|The Wildcats gave up 15 TO's, a majority coming in the second half. They went scoreless for twelve minutes in the second half and gave up too many open looks to the Quakers, almost allowing them a chance to get back into the game. They also lost the battle on the boards for the first time this season. What saves the grade is the win and a late 18-4 run and double digit defecit.|
|Jay Wright||B||Here's why I like Jay Wright tonight: 1) he wore a suit 2) he got in his players faces and let them know they weren't playing well 3) he encouraged his main asset of offense (Hilliard) to keep producing. I enjoyed Wright tonight, even though his team wasn't hitting shots, he understood that they weren't playing very well and tried to do damage control.|