When Penn freshman Miles Cartwright stole the ball and went the length of the court for a layup with 8 minutes, 34 seconds left in the first half Wednesday night at the Palestra, the underdog Quakers had their first lead of the game against No. 12 Villanova.

It was also the last time the Quakers managed to lead the Wildcats.

Although Penn held 'Nova to its lowest point total of the season, the visitors still prevailed in the nonleague contest, 65-53.

Villanova increased its lead in the series between the teams to 40-18. Last season, the Quakers visited the Wildcats and the result was a 103-65 triumph for the hosts.

Penn hasn't come out on top against 'Nova since 2002.

"We expected to win the game," Penn coach Jerome Allen said when it was mentioned that his team kept it competitive. "I would be selling these guys short if I say, 'It's OK. We played hard. We fought the 12th-ranked team in the nation.' I don't care. . . . [We] put these guys in the best position possible to win the game. Whether that happens or not is a different story. But I'm not telling these guys to keep it close and keep it respectable."

Villanova guard Corey Stokes answered when Cartwright gave Penn its only lead by nailing back-to-back three-point baskets. Stokes finished with a game-high 34 points.

Junior guard Zack Rosen led Penn with 20 points. Rosen and Stokes were teammates at St. Benedict's High in North Jersey, but that didn't stop them from exchanging shoves after one of the Quakers went down under the basket and players on both teams converged in the lane.

"He's on the other side now," said Rosen, who has yet to be on a Penn team that has won a game in the City Series. "I wasn't rooting for him. I'll be watching him and rooting for him in every other game but this one. I was disappointed that he had that kind of performance against us."

Penn, which trailed by 30-23 at intermission, got as close as 49-42 with 6:07 to go.

For most of the night, the Quakers were limited to outside shooting because of the size Villanova presents with 6-foot-10 Mouphtaou Yarou, 6-8 Antonio Pena, 6-11 Maurice Sutton, and 6-8 Isaiah Armwood splitting time in the paint.

The Wildcats outrebounded Penn by 35-23, and held the Quakers to 41.7 percent field-goal shooting.

"This is my fourth go-round, so I'm used to it," said Penn forward Jack Eggleston, a senior who scored 12 points. "It's a little different than the Ivy League, but you make the adjustments. You try to be physical. We didn't do the job on the boards tonight that we would have liked to. You're not going to lose the battle of the boards against a Big Five team, a Big East team, and expect to win the game."

Contact staff writer Kevin Tatum at 215-854-2583 or ktatum@phillynews.com.