VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Despite going ice cold for much of the second half, Villanova built a big enough cushion to still handily defeat visiting Penn, 77-54, in its Big 5 opener at the Pavilion on Wednesday.
The Wildcats--– ranked No. 14 in the latest AP poll after two Thanksgiving wins over nationally ranked teams -- didn’t score their first second-half points until the 12:31 mark and didn’t record their first field goal until 10 minutes had already gone by.
But after the Quakers sliced Villanova’s lead to eight on a pretty drive from Julian Harrell with seven minutes left, the Wildcats scored the next 12 points to put the game away.
With the win, Villanova remains perfect on the season at 8-0, while the Quakers fall to 2-5 overall and 0-2 in the Big 5.
Big men on campus
Villanova’s Darrun Hilliard led all scorers with 19 points. James Bell (14 points, eight rebounds) and JayVaughn Pinkstson (13 points, seven rebounds) also hit double figures for the ’Cats.
Miles Jackson-Cartwright led Penn with 17 points, including 14 in the first half.
Inside the box score
• Villanova shot just 18 for 52 from the field but had assists on 16 of its 18 baskets.
• The Wildcats attempted 40 free throws, making 31 of them.
• Penn committed 24 turnovers with Villanova turning those miscues into 26 points.
Villanova controlled things from the start, scoring the game’s first 11 points and riding hot three-point shooting to a 31-9 lead midway through the first half.
Jackson-Cartwright kept the game from getting too much out of hand, spearheading a 12-0 Penn run with three three-pointers to pull the Quakers within 10. But the Wildcats, who shot 44.4 percent from three-point range in the first half, still went into halftime with a commanding 46-28 lead.
The Quakers shot just 33.3 percent from the field before the break and committed 10 turnovers.
Villanova starter Daniel Ochefu didn’t start for academic reasons but he did come off the bench, scoring three points in 12 minutes.
For Penn, freshman point guard Tony Bagtas was called upon to make the first start of his career. He finished with seven points, nine assists, six rebounds and five turnovers in 36 minutes.
Villanova leads the all-time series with Penn 43-18 and has now won the last 11 contests against its Big 5 rival.
The last time when Villanova was ranked 14th in the Associated Press poll, the Quakers beat them -- but that was during the 1970-71 when Penn was ranked fourth.
The 1968-69 Quakers also stunned No. 9 Villanova, 32-20, in a slowdown game at the Palestra. Penn athletic director Steve Bilsky, who was honored at the Pavilion on Saturday because he’s set to retire, hit the game-winner in that famous game.
Villanova plays its second Big 5 game of the week when it travels to Hagan Arena to take on rival Saint Joseph’s on Saturday.
Penn hosts Wagner the same night.