No. 5 ‘Nova improves to 2-0 with 38-point win over Penn


In Spike Lee’s 1998 film, “He Got Game,” Denzel Washington plays the father of one of the best young basketball players in the United States. On Monday night, his real son (a walk-on freshman at the University of Pennsylvania) and the rest of the Quakers’ basketball team came to Villanova – but they were no match for the No. 5 Wildcats.

Riding a team-high 16 points from freshman guard Maalik Wayns, along with 14 points each from senior guard Scottie Reynolds, junior guard Corey Stokes and sophomore Taylor King, Villanova issued Penn a 103-65 beat down that was the most lopsided contest between the two teams in 38 years.

The Wildcats took control of their matchup with the Quakers early and never gave it up. Penn’s senior guard Darren Smith, who scored a game-high 21 points, drained a 3 to put his team on top 5-4 less than two minutes into the contest. However, that one point difference would be the only deficit the Wildcats needed to overcome all night. From there, Villanova went on a 16-0 run that lasted well over five minutes, propelling them to a 30 point lead at halftime.

The blowout victory was a welcomed sight for the Wildcat fans that kept the sold-out Pavilion rocking throughout the game on Monday evening. Following Friday night’s season opener against Fairleigh Dickinson, which Villanova led by only one point at halftime, a more convincing victory was certainly in order.

“Friday night we learned a little bit,” said Head Coach Jay Wright. “We knew we had to play a lot better.”

Improving their play was exactly what the Wildcats did against Penn, dominating the game at both ends of the floor from start to finish.

“We’ve still got to get a lot better, but we played well,” Wright said. “[The Quakers] are better than that, but we just played great early.”

Much of the Wildcats’ dominance, especially early in the game, can be attributed to the play of their bench. The first substitution of the game for the Wildcats was to bring in King for freshman forward/center Mouphtaou Yarou, about three minutes into the contest. King immediately displayed his hustle, securing two straight offensive rebounds that led to a Stokes 3-pointer, and then grabbing a defensive board at the other end of the court before returning to drain a 3 of his own. Soon afterwards, Wayns and redshirt freshman forward/center Maurice Sutton saw their first action of the game, leading to a rotation that involved a total of 10 different players in the first half alone. With the additions of King and the four freshmen (forward Isaiah Armwood, guard Dominic Cheek, Wayns and Yarou) to its roster, it appears that depth may be one of Villanova’s strong points this season.

“We want them to play, but they’ve got to prove it,” said Wright of his bench players. “Not only did they do that tonight, but they took us to another level.”

Villanova began the second period with a 7-0 run, and the Quakers were unable to get back within 30. The Wildcats’ lead ballooned as high as 48 following a 3-pointer by Wayns with slightly over seven minutes left in the game. The final spread was 38 despite the fact that the ‘Cats scored only 10 points in the final five minutes of the contest.

Penn’s difficulties were due to a combination of excellent defense by Villanova and an inability to hit open shots. The Wildcats held their opponents to just 25 points in the first half, while the Quakers shot a mere 26 percent from the field during that period. Villanova’s Big 5 rival appeared to be intent on relying on 3-point shooting throughout the game, but that did not serve them well – of 32 shots from beyond the arc, the Quakers connected only nine times.

While junior guard Corey Fisher, who dished out eight assists and was one of six Wildcats to score in the double digits, led the team with 26 minutes played, by the end of the game every player on the team had seen action. Senior Russell Wooten, who logged two minutes at the end of the contest, made the game a special one for himself by scoring his first career points on a layup with about a minute to go. Wright, meanwhile, experienced a first of his own during the matchup: he did not call a timeout once in the game.

“At the end of the first half, I was looking for a chance to call a timeout,” he said. “But they just kept making great plays.”

That continuous string of great plays led to Villanova’s second win of its young season, and it could only be described as dominant. From redshirt junior forward Antonio Peña’s double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) to Jason Colenda’s assist, the Wildcats found themselves on a roll – one that they will now look to continue in Puerto Rico before resuming Big 5 action against La Salle next Saturday.