Whitmore Scores 21, Powers Villanova Past Penn, 70-59


Quinn Burns/Villanovan Photography

Cam Whitmore led the Wildcats with 21 points in Wednesday’s win.

Jacob Artz, Staff Writer

Freshman forward Cam Whitmore is playing.

And Villanova is winning.

Villanova (4-5, 2-1 Big 5) used Whitmore’s 21 points to edge Penn, 70-59, Wednesday night in a Big 5 matchup at the Finneran Pavilion.

The Wildcats went almost eight minutes without a field goal in the second half. Whitmore was the last to score on a second-chance layup before the drought started with almost 12 minutes to go, and the one to end it at the 3:50 mark with another layup.

Whitmore amassed his points in spurts for the ‘Cats.

At the 14:21 mark, Whitmore skyed above multiple Penn defenders for an emphatic finish that got the crowd in a frenzy. Villanova led at this point, 46-36.

“Did he do that?” Villanova men’s basketball head coach Kyle Neptune joked postgame about the play.

At the 12:15 mark, Whitmore muscled through a Penn (5-7, 0-3 Big 5) defender, hitting a layup and getting the foul call, making the free throw.

Off a missed three from freshman guard Brendan Hausen, Whitmore rose above the Quaker defenders and made another lay-in to give him 17 at the 11:45 mark. The bucket sparked a 7-0 run for the ‘Cats, resulting in a 53-38 lead.

Whitmore converted 7-of-13 from the field, going 2-for-7 from three and 5-of-6 from the stripe. He ripped down six rebounds and added two assists in just 24 minutes.

“I’m still shocked that he can go out there and play at this level legitimately and practice like four to five times,” Neptune said. “It’s his first time playing this season, and he’s a freshman.”

Not everything is perfect with Whitmore, however. His defense is a work in progress.

“We’re really not worried about him offensively, but if he can continue to give us that effort defensively, we’ll be in a really good spot,” Neptune said.

Offensively, Whitmore can be special.

“His stroke is, like, that’s perfect,” Penn head coach Steve Donahue said. “And then, you close out on him, and he has the skills of a 6-2 guard.”

Whitmore was the star for the ‘Cats, but far from the only contributor. Four Wildcats were in double figures, including redshirt junior Eric Dixon and graduate guard Caleb Daniels. Dixon and Daniels put in 12 each, while graduate forward Brandon Slater added 10. 

Villanova shot a respectable 42% from the field overall and 33.3% from three. However, it missed all nine of its three-point attempts in the second half. In the long drought that lasted almost eight minutes, the Wildcats relied on free throws to score. The ‘Cats shot 18-of-21 from the line for a 85.7% mark.

Penn junior guard Jordan Dingle, who is third in the nation in scoring at 23.4 points per game, only had two in the first half. Dingle would not be held down long. He had 12 points in the first twelve minutes in the second half, trimming the Villanova lead to eight with 8:36 to go in the second half.

Dingle himself had a 7-0 run to make it an eight point game. After Villanova broke away again, the junior hit another three at the 7:07 mark to make it an eight point game again. 

“Dingle is special,” Neptune said. “He is really hard to guard.”

In total, Dingle accounted for 25 points, including 23 in the second half to single-handedly keep Penn in the game. He also corralled nine rebounds. 

“In the second half, they just kinda switched their offensive strategy, put him in isos,” Neptune said. “I mean, he’s just really good.”

A fortunate break for Villanova occurred at the 6:38 mark of the second half when Penn junior forward Max Martz fouled out. He was destroying Villanova down low with 15 points.

“He got to spots and did it,” Donahue said of Martz. “He’s a very good standstill shooter.”

The threes and strong defense were the keys to Villanova staying in the game early and eventually holding a ten-point lead at halftime.

Sophomore guard Jordan Longino capped a superb three-point shooting barrage at the end of the first half with a three of his own with four seconds to play. 

In the first half, Villanova made 10-of-21 three pointers, which is a 47.6% clip from the field. The threes came from many players in the rotation, with four players making at least two triples. Dixon made two threes early, Hausen hit two three-pointers at the 8:44 and 7:18 mark to give the ‘Cats a one-point lead. Whitmore made two during the 13-0 ‘Cats run towards the end of the first half, and senior guard Chris Arcidiacono sprinkled in two threes. 

“I thought we were just tentative on our closeouts,” Donahue said of the Villanova run. “Our issue is on the defensive end.”

Overall in the first half, the ‘Cats went 11-26 from the field, good for 42.3%. However, the ‘Cats only made 1-of-5 two pointers in the first half.

The 13-0 run in the first half was sparked by the defense setting up the offense. The ‘Cats had 14 points off of turnovers, many of them coming in the three-point variety.

“Our calling card has always been our defense,” Neptune said. “We’ve always wanted to be the hardest playing team, and that’s starting to click for our squad.”

Villanova next travels to the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, where it will take on former Big East foe Boston College in Saturday’s Never Forget Tribute Classic. The game is slated to start at 5 p.m. and will be aired on FOX.