I know what you’re thinking –
“Kyle won’t write about the Villanova loss since he’s a biased Villanova guy.”
That’s partially true. He’s doing business stuff for the site, so he himself is not going to write about it. He asked me to whip something up in his stead.
Penn looked good last night. Really good. Credit where it’s due; they’re a well-coached squad that knows how to space the floor and play disruptive defense and do the small things well. It’s not to say that Jay Wright is chopped liver compared to Steve Donahue, because Jay obviously just won two national championships, but I think we all knew that Villanova was gonna fall off a little bit after losing a bunch of guys to the NBA. Going down to Furman early in the season showed us that they were probably ripe for a Big 5 picking.
The Quakers didn’t win every category across the board last night. They actually took three fewer shots than Nova but were better from the three point line, hitting 7 of 16 tries for a 43.8% number. Villanova put up some deep bricks to the tune of a 9-26 night (34.6%), and that was probably the key difference, the three point shooting, along with Penn grabbing 13 offensive rebounds to offset a -3 turnover margin. Nova’s bench went 0-5 from three and contributed just 11 of their 75 points, while the Quakers got 25 combined points from Michael Wang and Jake Silpe on 7-14 shooting. Nova only mustered six assists as Penn forced them to play off the bounce, and when it came down to the final minutes, they team hit their free throws to finish the job.
All of that was good enough to end Villanova’s 25-game Big 5 winning streak, a run dating back to 2012. It was also the first time Penn defeated the Wildcats going waaaay back to December of 2002, when Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” held the top spot on the Billboard Top 100 chart and I was still in high school up in Berks County.
It resulted in a court-storming….
Upset Nova ➡️ Storm the court at the Palestra
— Bleacher Report CBB (@br_CBB) December 12, 2018
….and earned the Quakers their first Daily News backpage in more than 15 years:
(Yes, I've kept track.) https://t.co/kYjSspq1HR
— Jonathan Tannenwald (@jtannenwald) December 12, 2018
Mike Jensen, who does a really nice job with college sports over at the Inquirer, had some good quotes and insight on the game.
One part of it was understanding how an aggressive defender can turn into an off-stride defender, which for Penn players, seeing a hard hedge on a screen, meant an opening to cut to the hoop. If Quakers big men have the ball and see this kind of action, they are expert at knowing what to do next.
“A lot of scouting and a lot of reading into what they do,’’ Quakers big man AJ Brodeur, one of those expert readers and passers, said about all of Penn’s big men feeding cutting guards. “They blow up a lot of ball screens. They switch really hard. And I think that messes up a lot of teams that don’t have, you know, the mental toughness and the poise to slow it down, see the floor. What we do, when we see a team that’s going to blow up a screen … we cut to the basket. We catch it. We take a look around. We take a deep breath. We go from there.”
Yep. Penn does it really well. It’s almost as if they are really smart Ivy League kids.
Defender overplay on the screen? Scrap it and go backdoor instead. That’s a “we watched the film” type of play right there, and it was well-executed.
I don’t have a dog in the fight, but I’ll say this:
A Penn win makes the Big 5 somewhat interesting. Not to take anything away from Villanova’s uber-accomplishments over the last five seasons, but Philly basketball was lacking intrigue in the years that Nova was just clobbering city opponents. It was boring. 25 straight Big 5 wins is one hell of an accomplishment that probably will never be topped, but as amazing as the Cats have been in recent years, St. Joe’s and Temple and La Salle have been equally disappointing. Penn at least now has an excellent head coach who knows what he’s doing, so the revival of that program is fun to watch from an outside perspective.