Guru's College Report: Villanova Shooting Gains Win at Penn and Tie for Big 5 Title With Quakers
PHILADELPHIA -- Villanova doused Penn’s hopes for a first-ever Big Five sweep from the outset Wednesday night at the host Quakers’ Palestra with a flurry of shots to run to a lopsided 70-44 victory and claim a piece of the City Series title themselves alongside Penn’s piece of program history.
Both teams finished 3-1, a first-ever success for Penn (8-6 overall), but the two teams will have to wait until early next month to see if they have to move aside a bit to make room for Saint Joseph’s, the defending outright champion who can make it a three-way affair by beating La Salle at home at Hagan Arena in the first of two games that also count in the Atlantic 10 standings.
For Villanova (11-8, 3-1), it’s the start of a very big week which continues Friday in the Big East when first-place Seton Hall, which is having a landmark season,visits the Pavilion followed by Saint John’s, another conference front-runner, which will visit at noon on Sunday.
If one had told veteran Villanova coach Harry Perretta that his group would cruise to a victory despite Emily Leer having an off-night performance after a series of successes since her return from back problems, he might have been inclined to place a bet on the ponies instead at the nearest race track.
But Taylor Holeman and Kauvnaa Edwards both came through with career efforts as Holeman scored 20 points and Edwards had 16 to go with 11 rebounds.
“I just felt we played a good game tonight,” said Perretta, who usually has some imperfection to criticize in Villanova victories. “We’ve been playing a lot better since getting all our kids back and the kids were really focused.
“They really wanted a piece of that championship. They felt like we were injured early in the year and then they knew if they won tonight they would get a piece of it and they were really focused.”
The Wildcats shot 50 percent for the game while Penn suffered with a 29.8 percent effort from the field. Kara Bonenberger was the only Quaker scoring in double figures, posting 13 points.
Sydney Stipanovich was held to eight points and seven rebounds.
“They made shots and we broke down ad paid for it,”Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said. “It’s more about what they did. They really played well and we chased them the whole night and they deserve a lot of credit.”
The Wildcats are now 40-2 in their series with the Quakers and 23-2 at the Palestra and were the team McLaughlin feared the most of the four prior to an opening domination of La Salle early in the series that saw Penn beat Saint Joseph’s for only the second time, a victory that opened the door for Villanova to come back and claim a piece of the Big Five.
“We can sit here and make every reason up but they just outplayed us,” McLaughlin said. “When they make make threes, anyone is going to be in trouble against them. They’re so well coached. They’re so well schooled. If they missed those shots, maybe we’re having a different conversation. But they didn’t, so it doesn’t feel really well right now.”
“I can tell when we’re zeroed in,” Perretta said. And our upper classmen were zeroed in. Just the way we passed the ball you could tell they were focused.
“And sometimes it is harder for the team that has a chance to win it outright because they are a little nervous. I’m just happy we played well.”
Overall, the Wildcats now lead the five schools with 106 victories in City Series competition and have won 15 of the last 17 in their part of the local round robin.
“We treated it just as another conference game, the tradition of the Big Five,” Holeman said. “It’s just another game we’re trying to come out and play hard and win (like the Big East). It means something to be part of the Big Five so the fact we can share this championship means a lot to us to be part of this Philadelphia tradition.”
Penn might have been better off playing Villanova earlier when the Wildcats were coping with a short roster due to injuries. Since regaining overall health the Wildcats have won nine of their last 11 games and a sweep this weekend would keep a pulse going in terms of gaining an at-large NCAA bid if they do not win the Big East tourney in March in Rosemont, Ill., a suburb of Chicago located by O’Hare Airport.
Despite the ease of the win, Perretta took time to laud the work turned in by the six-year coach McLaughlin, who has enabled the Penn program to toss away its reputation as a local and Ivy League doormat.
He’s done a fabulous job, a remarkable job,” Perretta said. “They’re competing at a high level now and they win the (Ivy) championship last year and go to the NCAA tournament so I just think he’s done a great, great job.
“The only thing about this game tonight is we happened to play well and they didn’t. But overall I think he’s done a fabulous job.”
The Quakers head to north Jersey this weekend to finish their non-conference schedule with a visit to NJIT and then its back to Ivy business the rest of the way the following weekend beginning with the dreaded back-to-back New England road trip to Dartmouth on Friday and then to Harvard on Saturday.
“We’re excited to get back at it tomorrow because this group has to learn how to win on the road (all Penn’s games in the city series were home), we open both Ivy games on the road, we have to learn how to play on the road, more important we have to learn how to win on the road.
“We’ll dust this one off and take our lumps and but the credit on Villanova’s shoulders.”
La Salle Routed by Saint Louis
The Explorers continue to struggle since launching play in the Atlantic 10, falling to the visiting Billikens 76-47 Wednesday night at home in the Tom Gola Arena.
Michya Owens was the only home team player scoring in double figures, collecting 18 points for the Explorers (10-9, 1-5 Atlantic 10).
Jackie Kemph had a game-high 20 points for Saint Louis.
La Salle stays home for Saturday to next host revitalized George Washington, which is unbeaten in league play and won its 15th straight overall Wednesday night beating visiting Duquesne.
Temple Lights Up Cincinnati
Since we didn’t file off Tuesday’s lone game, at Temple the Owls struggled against the Bearcats in the first half and then exploded with a 64.7 shooting barrage over the final 20 minutes, outscoring Cincinnati 53-24 to take an 83-50 victory at McGonigle Hall and a 2-0 sweep in the series in The American Conference.
“I feel like we’re starting to come together,” said Temple coach Tonya Cardoza, who is a longtime friend of Cincinnati coach Jamelle Elliott from their days at powerful Connecticut serving on Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma’s staff.
Alliya Butts had 17 points for the Owls (9-11, 5-2 AAC), Erica Coville and Tanaya Atkinson each scored 14, a total also reached by Taylor Robinson off the bench.
Ana Owens had 13 points and Marley Hill scored 12 for Cincinnati (5-13, 2-5).
Temple’s two losses in the conference have come against UConn and USF, the 1-2 punch in The American, so the Owls are still in control of being able to beat everyone else and finish high enough to gain a conference tournament bye as well as get over .500 and land somewhere for the postseason.
The Owls are off a week before traveling to Orlando to try to complete a sweep of UCF and then return here Sunday, Feb. 1, prior to the Super Bowl to host UConn.
A Mo’Ne Davis Basketball Visual
.Here is a clip of local summer pitching sensation Mo’ne Davis in basketball action at the recent Kobe Bryant tournament. In 8th grade, Davis made the varsity of Springside Academy in suburban Philadelphia.
The video link is provided by Eric Quao, a local photographer who is one of the Guru’s vampire club colleagues doing our thing at night operating out of a Fedex spot across the river in Chery Hill.
Having posted all this, the Guru is going to check options of getting to Hofstra for the noon tip on Long Island against Drexel in the CAA or otherwise down to Delaware for the nighttime CAA game against Charleston or maybe both.
You will know from ensuing tweets on the Guru’s progress.
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