Stokes strokes in win



Jon Albert

The last place that Head Coach Jay Wright wanted his No. 12-ranked Wildcats to be was behind 17-16 at the first half of a Big Five game in the Palestra against Penn yesterday.

“Penn played really tough tonight,” Wright said. “You have to give them credit. And the fans are really supporting their team and recognizing how much work they do. It made for a tough atmosphere to play in.”

Senior guard Corey Stokes certainly didn’t mind the conditions.

In fact, midway through the second half, a light burst in the rafters, a fitting coincidence given the night Stokes had. Stokes almost literally shot the lights out last night at the famed Philadelphia court, scoring a career-high 34 points while leading the ‘Cats to a 65-53 victory over the Quakers.

With his sweet shooting, he was able to eclipse the 1,000-point mark for his career, finishing the night with 1,010 career points.

The game was closer than many had originally predicted, given the teams’ respective records and history against one another. The raucous crowd at the Palestra certainly helped the Quakers battle back when the game started to slip away, unveiling witty anti-Villanova signs and making a half-full Palestra feel like a sold-out Pavilion. The Wildcats now lead the all-time series against the Quakers 41-17 and haven’t lost to Penn since 2002.

Stokes’ big scoring night helped ease the pain of another uneven offensive performance against an inferior opponent.

The ‘Cats’ 65 points was their lowest total of the season, and the team was never able to find an offensive rhythm against a Quaker team that has struggled defensively all year. Redshirt senior forward Antonio Peña had a great night, adding 16 points of his own, but no other Wildcat managed to score more than four.

Senior guard Corey Fisher continued his shooting slump, scoring just four points on 1-of-6 shooting, and sophomore guard Maalik Wayns didn’t play in the second half after taking a nasty fall right before halftime. Fisher didn’t start but had a wild game across the stat sheet, recording six assists and five steals. His five turnovers did prove costly, however.

Wright was quick to dispel any rumors of fighting among the team after the game.

“He got in an argument with me Sunday at practice,” Wright said. “You just don’t do that. It’s that simple. I said you’re not starting. It’s over now.”

But it was Stokes’ big night that Wright really wanted to talk about.

“Thank God for Corey Stokes,” Wright said. “He does so many other things for us. He’s our best defensive player and our best rebounding guard. I was starting to wonder if we were asking him to do too much. But without those 34, we don’t win the game.”

Stokes was far more modest, despite being sick all day Tuesday.

“I wasn’t feeling well at all,” Stokes said. “I had a sore throat, some dizziness, some kind of 24-hour virus. But as one of the senior leaders, my teammates needed me to be a Villanova warrior.”

His 5-of-9 performance from behind the arc was by far the best performance of his career and was exactly what the stagnant ‘Cats offense needed. Credit Stokes for attacking this game like every other one.

“I come out every night with that type of confidence,” Stokes said. “Tonight my teammates were able to get me open shots and kept telling me to shoot the ball, so I did.”

The win was the second Big Five victory of the season for the Wildcats, who defeated St. Joe’s last Friday. The team heads back into Philadelphia this Saturday for more Big Five action when it will face the La Salle Explorers at the Wells Fargo Center.