by Mark Mullany
The men’s basketball team got its first Big 5 win of the season as the Wildcats defeated the Penn Quakers by a score of 68-55 last Saturday night at the Palestra in Philadelphia.
“It wasn’t pretty by any stretch, but we hung in there and got the road win,” said head coach Jay Wright.This contest was filled with fouls and turnovers.
In the first half alone, the ’Cats and Quakers committed 30 fouls and 16 turnovers.
When the game was over, the combined totals for both teams tallied up to 52 fouls and 32 turnovers.
In the second half, freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono had four fouls by the 13:45 mark.
Junior guard Tony Chennault and redshirt sophomore guard JayVaughn Pinkston also piled up four fouls, causing even more foul trouble for the Wildcats.
Fortunately for the Wildcats, sophomore guard Achraf Yacoubou stepped up off the bench and led the team in scoring with 13 points.
“Ach is a good example of our team,” said Wright. “We know he’s got talent and he’s learning what we do. Last year, he was a young freshman and he struggled with it a little bit. He’s getting better and better with it every day this year.
“We see it in practice every day,” he continued. “He got his opportunity and no one on our team would tell you he was surprised at this. It’s just a matter of consistency and that is where our team is at. Ach has improved and can continue to improve.”
Senior Mouphtau Yarou took over by scoring eight points in the second half, finishing with 10 overall.
“Mouph played like a senior,” added Wright.
Despite the game being close in the first half and the majority of the Wildcats being in foul trouble in the second half, Villanova pulled away, ensuring that the Quakers never had a lead in the game.
Senior forwards Yarou and Maurice Sutton drained long jumpers to score the opening points of the game. Then, junior guard James Bell dished to an open Arcidiacono, who connected on a 3-pointer.
After Pinkston subbed in for Yarou, he scored the team’s next seven points to cap off a 14-2 scoring run.
The biggest highlight of ’Nova’s first scoring run was when sophomore guard Darrun Hilliard stole the ball and passed it to Pinkston, who penetrated the lane and slammed down an emphatic and-one dunk. Five of Pinkston’s points in that run came from the free throw line.
While Penn did not connect on its first field goal until the 11:55 mark and only had four field goals in the first half, the Quakers stayed in contention by scoring points at the charity stripe. Penn was 17-of-24 from the free throw line in the first half. Penn’s free throw shooting cut into ’Nova’s lead, making the score 20-11.
Despite Hilliard rejecting a dunk by Penn sophomore forward Greg Louis, the Quakers secured the offensive board, allowing junior guard Patrick Lucas-Perry to hit a crucial 3-pointer for the Quakers.
Shortly after, Penn junior guard Steve Rennard stole the ball from Sutton. From there, Rennard passed the ball to Penn junior guard Miles Cartwright, who nailed an open three to bring the Quakers within three points of the lead, 20-17.
Both teams were in the double-bonus with five minutes remaining in the first half. Each team attempted a combined 41 free throws in the half. With 1:43 remaining in the first half, the Wildcats led by only two points, 27-25.
Shortly after, Sutton started an 8-2 scoring run to close the half by making 3 out of 4 free throws. Ultimately, he was fouled as he sunk a lay-up with 22.5 seconds left in the half. After he missed the and-one free throw, Yacoubou rebounded the ball, giving the Wildcats one more possession before halftime.
The Wildcats ran the clock down to four seconds before Yacoubou sunk an exhilarating 3-pointer to end the half and to excite the sizable crowd of ’Nova fans who had invaded the Palestra.
At halftime, the Wildcats led the Quakers, 35-27.
However, Cartwright hit a long ball in the first 10 seconds of the second half and sophomore forward Henry Brooks followed with a jump shot to bring Penn back within three points of the ’Cats, 35-32.
After that, Bell made a baseline layup and a 3-pointer to reassert ’Nova’s lead. Sutton added a dunk off of a Pinkston pass to make the score 42-34. Despite Arcidiacono, Chennault, Sutton and Pinkston all having at least three fouls each, the Wildcats kept control of the game in the second half by only having six turnovers and by connecting on 15-of-21 shots from the charity stripe.
Behind Yacoubou in scoring was Arcidiacono, who finished with 12 points and went 3-of-6 from long range. Yarou and Pinkston were also in double figures, with each adding 10 points in the contest.
The ’Cats next contest will be this Sunday against Delaware at the Pavilion. Tip-off is set for 4 pm.