So in recent years, a Big 5 game for Villanova meant a chance for an extension of a City Series winning streak. This was true facing Penn on Wednesday night at the Finneran Pavilion. Except it was Penn trying to extend its six-game Big 5 win streak.
This one lived up to its billing. Some in-game observations:
Penn was effective cutting to the hoop, with or without the ball. Villanova took another path. Usually taking it inside, often with one man.
Here’s an understatement: Saddiq Bey caused all sorts of problems for Penn no matter who was guarding him. (Who guarded him? Everyone and often nobody.) As space cleared out in the lane, Bey kept filling it, turning his matchups into mini one-on-one battles that the sophomore kept getting the best of it. Bey had 16 points at the break. Then he kept going. Baseline drive for a dunk? Sure. Take it to AJ Brodeur for a three-point play? Why not. He slowed down for a time but with 6 1/2 minutes left already had a career high before hitting the bench with four quick second-half fouls.
Pivot, reverse pivot, pivot back. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is going to see those AJ Brodeur moves in his sleep. Not that Brodeur is predictable. Maybe Robinson-Earl was expecting one late in the first half. Brodeur went right up with the baby hook.
So this was just school in session all night? Robinson-Earl provided his share of payback, like the time Brodeur moved inside to help on Collin Gillespie, who instantly hit Robinson-Earl outside, and he instantly hit a three-pointer. Running offense through Robinson-Earl also worked fine. The freshman had three first-half assists.
Robinson-Earl also got the second half started by tipping away an entry pass intended for Brodeur, and stole an inbounds pass. Robinson-Earl worked Brodeur inside. Brodeur took a charge from Robinson-Earl inside.
A classic matchup, start to finish.
Go with points off turnovers. Nine for Villanova, none for Penn. Other Villanova opponents can relate. Penn only had one more turnover than Villanova. But Villanova makes teams pay for them.
Villanova must have lost their uniforms. Was wearing some other team’s shade of baby blue. (Old Guy observation, sorry.)