Villanova’s 25-game Big 5 winning streak is over.
The 17th-ranked Wildcats fell to Penn, 78-75, at the Palestra on Tuesday to see its undefeated run among its Philadelphia counterparts come to an end after six years.
It’s also an end to the six-game winning streak coach Jay Wright’s team has enjoyed since losing back-to-back games to Michigan and Furman last month.
Issues persisted on the defensive end for the Wildcats as they fell on a night they shot 50 percent from the floor and 34.6 percent from 3-point range. The Quakers bested that by converting 51.1 percent of their shots overall and 43.8 percent of their 16 attempts from distance.
Villanova had put some distance between itself and the shellacking it took courtesy of Michigan and the OT lost to Furman, but it continues to be clear that while still a top-25 caliber team, Wright’s squad this year looks to be well short of the teams that celebrated national championships in 2016 and 2018. Eric Paschall was expected to step into the void from losing so many players to the NBA off last year’s title-winner, but he took just five shots against Penn and has been generally inconsistent all season. Five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly can’t even got on the floor. That leaves Collin Gillespie and Phil Booth, who combined for 39 points Tuesday, carrying a bigger burden than would be ideal.
The Wildcats are likely ultimately going to be fine – they lost to a good team Tuesday – but unless they can get more from especially Paschall it’s hard to see them elevating themselves to a Final Four contender.
That’s the weight of expectation after two titles in three years.
We knew the Big East championship wasn’t going to be Villanova’s to simply waltz to, but the top-half of the league continues to look incredibly tightly grouped together without mich separation.
Penn, meanwhile, looks a real threat in the Ivy, as was evident in the Quakers’ win over Miami last week. The win over Villanova only solidifies their status.
AJ Brodeur and Antonio Woods both scored 16 points against the ‘Cats as Penn led by as many as 12 points on the night, but still had to survive a Booth attempt from 3 at the buzzer to finally end Villanova’s supremacy over Big 5 hoops.