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Villanova rolls over Penn in Big 5 matchup

Villanova coach Jay Wright has always approached Big 5 games with the utmost caution. Because he grew up in another era. So he fully understands what can happen, each and every time, regardless of whatever it might say on paper.

Villanova coach Jay Wright has always approached Big 5 games with the utmost caution. Because he grew up in another era. So he fully understands what can happen, each and every time, regardless of whatever it might say on paper.

Last December, a Wildcat team on its way to the Final Four almost certainly would have lost to Saint Joseph's at home, had the Hawks just made another free throw or two at the end. And a Temple team on its way to a second consecutive Atlantic 10 title also pushed the 'Cats for the first 30 minutes, again at the Pavilion.

Two seasons ago, didn't a 'Nova team that ended up in the Sweet 16 lose by 20-some to St. Joe's at the Palestra?

That's just the way it can be.

Nevertheless, the reality is that 'Nova has now won 19 of its last 20 City Series matchups.

Perhaps the separation between any one program and the rest of the fraternity has never been greater.

Anyway, last night the Wildcats (2-0), ranked fifth in the nation, beat visiting Penn (0-2) for the seventh consecutive time, 103-65.

With 7 minutes remaining, the lead was 48. The biggest margin of victory in any Big 5 game is 41, by Villanova over La Salle in 2005. There was, of course, the imfamous 43-pointer by 'Nova over Penn in the 1971 East Regional final, but that doesn't officially count. Last night's 103 marked the most points Villanova has ever scored against Penn, and tied for third-most the 'Cats ever scored in a Big 5 game.

At the end of the first half, Villanova, which had opened with a 23-point win over Fairleigh Dickinson on Friday, was playing five guys who weren't on last season's squad. At one point, Wright was using three true freshmen, a redshirt freshman and a sophomore transfer. So it's not like he can do much to clear his bench.

The Quakers, who had lost by 15 at Penn State 3 nights earlier, just couldn't do a whole lot. And it wasn't always their fault.

At least Malcolm Washington, in his first collegiate action, scored on a late steal and layup. Yes, he's Denzel's son.

The 'Cats now head to San Juan, for the O'Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Classic, where they'll get George Mason on Thursday and either Dayton or Georgia Tech in Friday's second round.

The Quakers host Delaware on Saturday.

Did we mention that Wright never called a timeout?

"I was looking for a chance to [in the first half]," said Wright, who couldn't remember a game that he didn't call one. "They kept making great plays . . .

"We've all been on the other side of that. We just came out and everything was clicking early. After we made some big runs, there was nothing they could do. It was kind of tough. I felt for them.

"We didn't play well in our scrimmage against [George Washington], or our exhibition with Kutztown. Then you get in a real game [against FDU], and all the things you're talking about, [the players] start to realize how important they really are. We had a good practice Saturday."

Four of 'Nova's five starters scored in double digits. Newcomer Maalik Wayns led the way with 16 points off the bench, in 18 minutes. Taylor King, who sat out last season after coming here from Duke, had 14 as a reserve.

"They took us to another level, rather than keeping us there," Wright noted. "We knew it was possible to have great depth. We want them to play, we need them to play. But they've got to prove it. You can play like this one night, and come back [and not play well]. I think we're a young team. This was fun to be a part of."

The Wildcats had 17 more field goals and 24 more rebounds. They shot 11-for-21 from the arc, to Penn's 9-for-32.

"I go in the game to have a spark," King said. "I want to keep the game going, keep us fresh, keep us playing . . . for our team to be successful."

Wayns went to Roman Catholic. He knows all about local bragging rights. "I've been watching [the Big 5] all my life," he said. "It's great to [finally] play in. I know how much this means around the city, and to Villanova.

"I try to come in and play hard, do my part. I'm playing with other great players. I just try to be aggressive, at both ends."

For Penn, which got 21 points from Darren Smith and 16 out of Rob Belcore, it's pretty much a matter of simply moving on. Hopefully the Quakers can do so with junior guard Tyler Bernardini, who injured his right foot in the first half and didn't return. He will undergo an MRI today.

"It was a tough night for us, obviously," said coach Glen Miller. "[Villanova] played every bit to their national ranking. They have so much speed at every position. It clearly bothered us. We were a step behind.

"They're very skilled, very athletic. They get out. We wanted a slower pace. They had 24 fastbreak points in the first half. That wasn't what we even had in mind for the game. We can play much better, obviously. I think it snowballed, to be honest."

Odds are, there will be other coaches saying the same thing.