Philadelphia, PA – The only other time the University of Pennsylvania hosted the reigning NCAA Champion at the Palestra was on January 27, 1986, and coincidentally that team was also Villanova. That contest ended in a 68-64 Villanova win. This one would not be as close. Despite star senior and preseason Big East Player of the Year, Josh Hart, starting on the bench due to a rules violation, Villanova didn’t skip a beat en route to a 82-57 pummeling. Villanova’s Ivy League opponent had no answer for the freakish athleticism of Mikal Bridges and Josh Hart nor the lethal three point shooting of Kris Jenkins.
The story of the game was undeniably the play of the Final Four hero. The 6-6 senior forward went 6-of-7 from behind the arc and finished with 22 points. His only miss was an ill-advised heat check from well beyond the NBA line. Jenkins has one of the purest strokes in college basketball, and that form doesn’t break down even when he has a defender in his shooting space. “Kris just hit some deep ones,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “He was guarded and that’s where sometimes talent takes over. A number of the ones he hit, he was guarded.”
Jenkins had a few accomplices in Villanova’s Big Five beatdown. This was a team effort with all starters, and Hart off the bench, scoring at least ten points. “I don’t mean to slight their talent, but there’s a lot more talented teams in the country; not a ton, but there’s a good share, more length, more size, more speed, depth, skill,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said. “But there’s no team that plays together, and that hard, in every aspect of the game.”
Hart displayed his athleticism with several big time dunks and flying-through-traffic offensive rebounds. Equally impressive was the 6-7 G/F Bridges. The lanky sophomore, who developed into an outstanding defender during last year’s championship run, finished the night with 10 points and a team high three steals. So far this season, he is shooting an impressive 61 percent from the field putting up 10 points and 5.3 boards per game.
Donte DiVincenzo, a 6’5” redshirt freshman guard out of Delaware, who started instead of Hart, also showed some serious hops with an impressive weakside swat and several acrobatic drives to the rim. Playing point for several possessions, he finished with 13 points on 3-of-5 shooting from three.
Fellow backcourt mate, Jalen Brunson, finished with 10 points on 5-of-10 shooting. The son of former Temple great, Rick Brunson, was one of Villanova’s highest rated recruits in years. While a very good college player, the sophomore Brunson was unimpressive against a fairly un-athletic Penn team.
The lone bright spot for Penn, outside of its student section’s “BEAT NOVA” t-shirts, was freshman AJ Brodeur. A 6-8 center who was recruited by Steve Donahue while he was the head coach at Boston College, showed flashes of why he was named co-Ivy League Rookie of the Week earlier this year. Brodeur has good feet and is active on the glass, but has problems with balance and leverage against a muscular big like Villanova’s Darryl Reynolds. Finishing with 10 points and five rebounds, Brodeur will be an integral piece for this program for the next four years.
The 82-57 defeat in its first home game drops Penn to 2-3. Meanwhile, Villanova will head into Saturday’s city matchup with Saint Joseph’s undefeated at 7-0.
This article was written by Robby Smukler, a correspondent and scout for NetScouts Basketball. You can subscribe to our RSS feed from the upper right corner of our home page, follow us on Facebook, or on twitter.
Any international players interested in coming to the USA to play in college, prep school or high school can contact us here. We are looking for interns and sales associates. If you’re interested contact us and forward your resume.