Penn may have lost 80-69 to Villanova at Finneran Pavilion Wednesday night, but the final score doesn’t reflect the fairly even play between the Big 5 rivals, notwithstanding the strong finishes the Wildcats ended both halves on to clinch the win.
How reigning Big 5 champion Penn (5-4) hung with the Wildcats (6-2) is important.
In its previous five games, Penn had attempted 149 threes, for an average of 29.8 tries per contest.
Penn made 61 of them, achieving a scorching hot 40.9% conversion rate and showing why the living by the three can be a winning strategy.
But the Wildcats strove to drive the Red & Blue off the three-point line and largely succeeded, as Penn attempted only 19 triples, its lowest number of tries all season. (Penn connected on seven, four from rookie standout Jordan Dingle alone.)
So Penn, which has always taken the analytically savvy approach under Steve Donahue of prioritizing attacking inside for high-percentage two-pointers as well as looking to connect from three-point land, made hay at closer range.
Penn went 22-for-41 (53.7%) from two-point range, with 20 assists on its 29 overall field goals. Arguably one of the best passers in the Ivy League, AJ Brodeur notched six assists (after dishing 10 versus No. 14 Arizona) and bludgeoned Nova inside on 8-for-13 shooting.
No, Penn couldn’t beat Villanova for a second straight season for the first time since 2002 and lost to nationally ranked Wildcats for the second time in a five-day span. But nearly keeping up with the team with the second-ranked adjusted offensive efficiency in the nation despite not getting nearly as much of a lift as it’s gotten accustomed to from deep is impressive.
Now if Penn fans are looking for improvement based on something that transpired Wednesday night, they can keep their gaze on 33rd Street (OK, 34th and Market) and Drexel’s Daskalakis Athletic Center, where the Dragons defeated Princeton. It is absurd that the Ivy League P on Drexel’s schedule isn’t Penn, which hasn’t played Drexel at all since 2017 on the men’s side despite their two arenas being a 10-minute walk apart. For many years, the Battle of 33rd Street was very awkwardly a Palestra-only affair, and now it has vanished completely. Penn-Drexel is a natural City 6 rivalry that should be renewed every year. If Drexel wants to have the game at its place every other season, fine. Alternating venues is the neighborly thing to do anyway, even if it’s not necessarily the most sensible option given the Palestra’s much greater capacity and atmosphere. Drexel has played Temple the past two seasons, doing so at the Palestra in 2018. If Penn and Drexel can secret scrimmage each other, they can play with the doors open too, whether the doors swing open toward W.W. Hagerty Library or Shoemaker Green.