Brunson leads No. 4 Villanova to rout of Penn
VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — The venue, and its deafening noise, was different, but the result was the same for Villanova. The fourth-ranked Wildcats rolled past yet another Philadelphia opponent.
Jalen Brunson had 17 points to lead five players in double figures as Villanova routed Penn 90-62 on Wednesday night.
Omari Spellman, Mikal Bridges and Phil Bridges added 14 points apiece and Donte DiVincenzo scored 12 for the Wildcats (7-0), who remained undefeated while winning their 19th in a row against Philadelphia Big 5 rivals.
“I don’t like thinking about it,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said of the streak. “We know if you don’t bring it, you’re going to get beat. We never lose respect for those teams.”
The Big 5 also includes Temple, La Salle and Saint Joseph’s.
“They have a degree of confidence in themselves and each other,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said. “All of us (Big 5 coaches) are motivated to reach the bar Jay has set. I do feel we want to end that streak.”
The famed Philadelphia City Series started in 1956, but Wednesday’s game was the first to be played at Jake Nevin Field House. It became the 10th venue for a Big 5 contest, most of which have been held at The Palestra.
A bandbox gym on Villanova’s campus that seats 2,220, Nevin — known as the “Cat House” in its heyday — last hosted a Wildcats game on Jan. 4, 1986. Villanova is playing most of its home games this season at Wells Fargo Center, home court of the 76ers, while its regular on-campus arena gets a makeover.
It was noticeable immediately that with fans practically right on top of the court and a building well-built for acoustics, that it was going to be noisy — really noisy.
“It was a wild atmosphere,” Wright said. “You can’t hear anything. It’s a difficult place to play for everybody, including the home team.”
Brunson gave up on trying to listen to Wright calling plays.
“I tried reading his lips,” Brunson said.
And Spellman said he had to ask Bridges “50 times” the play.
Villanova shot an efficient 57 percent in the opening half to take a 46-28 lead. Nine Wildcats scored in the opening 20 minutes, led by Spellman’s 10 points.
The Wildcats were in total control after halftime and the advantage reached as much as 74-47 on Bridges’ fastbreak dunk with 8:38 remaining.
Villanova finished shooting 57 percent from the field, including 50 percent from beyond the arc.
AJ Brodeur paced Penn with 15 points and Darnell Foreman had 13 for the Quakers (5-4).
Donahue wasn’t displeased with Penn’s effort, instead crediting the Wildcats for their typically strong performance.
“They’re such a good, disciplined, tough team,” he said. “There’s never a team I’ve played against that’s smarter, tougher and more unselfish.”
HONORS ALL AROUND
Villanova also honored the late Rollie Massimino as 21 members of the former coach’s family were on hand.
Also introduced to the crowd were many former Wildcats who played at Nevin Field House.
The Wildcats have won 27 straight games in November.
The victory was Villanova’s 15th straight against Penn.
MEAL TICKETS NEEDED
A mistake by Wright with the pregame schedule forced the Wildcats to go to the school’s cafeteria for their pregame meal rather than in their regular, private location.
Penn: The Quakers are tuning up for the start of the Ivy League season, which begins for them Jan. 5 against archrival Princeton.
Villanova: The Wildcats will look to continue their dominance of the Philadelphia rivals on Saturday at Saint Joseph’s. They’ll host La Salle at the Wells Fargo Center on Dec. 10 and finish the Big 5 at Temple on Dec. 13.
Penn: At Howard on Monday night.
Villanova: At Saint Joseph’s on Saturday night.
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