No. 5 Villanova dominates late in 62-47 win over Penn
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jay Wright has coached enough games at Philly’s fabled Palestra to recognize the throaty roar.
It’s the one that rises from fans in the creaky bleachers when an underdog is threatening to pull off a major upset.
“When I hear it, I know it,” Wright said. “I didn’t have to look at what the scoreboard was. You don’t want to hear that when you’re the visitor.”
Once Villanova found Daniel Ochefu inside, the Wildcats quieted the Penn faithful and silenced the Quakers’ early upset bid. Ochefu had 21 points and 10 rebounds to help No. 5 Villanova pull away late and beat pesky Penn 62-47 on Saturday night.
The Wildcats (17-1) took a breather from Big East play for their final game of the season in Philadelphia’s city series. Against the Ivy Leaguers, the Wildcats only led by one midway through the second half until a 21-6 run finally clinched their fourth straight victory.
The Wildcats won Philadelphia’s city series title played by the Big 5 of Villanova, Temple, La Salle, Saint Joseph’s and Penn. The Wildcats had otherwise bullied their city rivals, thumping La Salle 84-70, Saint Joseph’s 74-46 and Temple 85-62.
“I definitely don’t think we own the city,” Wright said. “I know we don’t own the city.”
The numbers tell a different a story — the Wildcats won their 11th straight game overall in the city series.
Antonio Woods kept the Quakers (4-9) competitive for 30 minutes and led them with 18 points. His second 3-pointer of the game pulled the Quakers within one with 12:53 left headed into a timeout. He hit another 3 that kept it a one-point game after the Wildcats threatened to finally build some breathing room with a short run.
Nova guard Ryan Arcidiacono was left alone in the corner to hit a 3 that made it 41-37. Ochefu stepped out to the perimeter and blocked a shot, which led to Dylan Ennis’ layup on the other end for a 43-37 lead. Ochefu, 6-foot-11, 245 pounds, nearly brought down the rim on a monster dunk that made it 45-37 and the Wildcats took off from there. Ochefu was hardly double-teams as the Quakers tried to shut down the 3-point attack.
“We’ve been hitting shots the last couple of games, so I’m not really surprised they’d rather take a 2 over a 3,” Ochefu said.
The Wildcats flexed their muscle and dominated the Quakers over the final 8 minutes, winning their 12th straight game in the series.
The Quakers were set for an upset at the Palestra, which opened in 1927, and tried to knock off their first AP Top 5 team since it beat No. 3 North Carolina in the 1979 NCAA tournament.
“We gave ourselves a chance to win for about 32 minutes, 30 seconds,” Penn coach Jerome Allen said.
Seton Hall remains the lone team to defeat the Wildcats.
The Quakers kept it close because of a miserable shooting effort by the Wildcats. They missed 10 of 14 3-pointers after making 15 in their last game against Xavier and made only 1 of 6 free throws. They shot 30 percent (9 of 30) overall from the floor, well below their 41 percent on the season.
Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, who earned his undergraduate degree at Penn in 1965, was among the sellout crowd of 8,722 inside the gym on Penn’s campus. He cheered when Woods buried a corner 3 that tied the game at 19-all with 3 minutes left in the half.
“Coming in, everyone talked about a sold out Palestra, sold out Palestra,” Woods said. “I didn’t realize it until I stepped on the floor and saw everyone in the corners. Once you fill the corners, that’s how you know it’s sold out.”
Darrun Hilliard gave the Nova fans that made the short trip a reason to cheer with a 3 that sent the Wildcats into halftime with a 23-21 lead.
Penn: Penn has not defeated Villanova since 2002. ... The Quakers outrebounded Villanova 37-33. ... Penn had 17 turnovers.
Villanova: The Wildcats missed 16 of their final 19 shots in the first half. ... The Wildcats finished 13-0 in nonconference games.
Allen was a former star for the Quakers and led them to Ivy League titles in each of his last three seasons. He was part of a Penn team that won an NCAA tournament game in 1994. But he’s yet to lead the Quakers to the tournament in five seasons.
“I’ve been blessed not only to play at the Palestra, but also to stand on the sideline and make the wrong calls,” he said.
Penn hosts Monmouth on Wednesday.
Villanova plays Monday at Georgetown.