Villanova proved last April that it’s the top team in the nation. The Wildcats continue to prove that they’re the top team in the city.
On Tuesday night at the Palestra, No. 2 Villanova eased past host Penn, 82-57, for its 15th straight Big 5 win — an all-time record in the 61-year history of the famed series between Philly’s Division I hoops programs.
Villanova, which has captured three consecutive Big 5 crowns, has won 14 straight against the Quakers, who had the brutal task of welcoming the reigning national champs to a nearly full Palestra for their first home game of the season.
Villanova is now 7-0 on the season while Penn fell to 2-3.
The Quakers were hanging around for the first few minutes, pulling within 18-13 on a Matt Howard three-pointer with 13:35 left in the first half.
But Villanova reeled off a 12-0 run, capped with a Josh Hart three-point play, to go ahead 30-13. The Wildcats led comfortably the rest of the way.
Big men on campus
Kris Jenkins, the hero of last season’s national championship game, led all scorers with 22 points, including 13 in the first half. He shot 7 for 11 from the field and a blistering 6 for 7 from three-point range.
Donte DiVincenzo had 13 points and Hart and Darryl Reynolds finished with 12 points apiece, with Hart adding nine assists and six rebounds. Jalen Brunson (11 points) and Mikal Bridges (10 points) also hit double figures for the 'Cats.
Jackson Donahue led Penn with 12 points on 4 for 11 shooting (from both the field and three-point range). Freshman AJ Brodeur and Darnell Foreman each had 10.
By the numbers
• Villanova shot 55 percent from the field while Penn shot just 32 percent.
• Each team committed 17 turnovers but Villanova scored 23 points off those turnovers while Penn scored 11.
• Penn got more points from its bench than Villanova, 20-14.
Villanova was hot early, making its first six shots of the game and shooting 60 percent (15 for 25) from the field and 50 percent (7 for 14) from three-point range before the break.
The Wildcats also closed the half strong, forcing Penn into a turnover on a Quakers fast break and creating their own break that led to a thunderous Hart dunk in front of the Penn student section. Penn head coach Steve Donahue was then whistled for a technical foul and Jenkins hit a pair of free throws to send Villanova into the locker room with a 44-25 edge.
Minor disciplinary issue
For the second straight game, a star Villanova senior did not start the game because of a disciplinary issue. After Jenkins came off the bench in Wednesday’s 63-47 win over the College of Charleston because he missed a class, Hart was held out because he was late to a weightlifting session.
But just like with Jenkins, Hart came in just a few minutes into the game and still made a big impact.
Villanova and Penn both continue Big 5 play with the Wildcats hosting rival Saint Joseph’s (1 p.m.) and Penn traveling to Temple (4 p.m.) on Saturday.
The Wildcats are in the midst of a stretch in which four of five games are against Philly opponents. Villanova’s looking for its fourth straight Big 5 title.