The Penn women’s basketball team really, truly can beat Villanova. It can sweep the Big 5. Penn nowadays has as robust a program, as strong a coaching staff, as talented a bunch of players and stream of recruits as you can find in the Philadelphia area.
Maybe next year.
This year, though, the Quakers couldn’t escape history. Nova’s Wildcats locked up at least a share of the Big 5 title Wednesday night with a 70-58 win. It’s the 17th Big 5 title in coach Harry Perretta’s 42 seasons leading the team. (He’s retiring when this one’s over.) Villanova is 44-3 against Penn, and some games have amounted to clinics in ball control and precision passing. Against the Big 5 generally, Perretta’s teams are 122-40, a .753 winning percentage.
That’s Knute Rockne territory.
But what won the game for Nova wasn’t decades of history, it was a few minutes of the present. These are two good teams, and they traded the lead through most of three quarters until the Quakers went cold — no field goals in almost 10 minutes — and then the Wildcats got hot, sinking eight of their last nine shots. Nova relied, as usual, on versatile forward Madison Siegrist plus Mary Gedaka and Bridget Herlihy; the trio combined for 61 of the team’s 70 points, including five threes.
For Penn, the bright lights included improvements in what has been an anemic inside game: Center Eleah Parker asserted herself with three blocks and 10 points on 5-for-11 shooting, and backup Emily Anderson made good use of her time on the court with a block and 2-for-2 shooting. But Villanova had the edge in rebounds, 38-31.
Freshman guard Kayla Padilla had her usual 20-plus points (23 this time), and she and Phoebe Sterba each went 3-for-7 from outside.
Penn still can claim a share of the Big 5 title when it travels to Temple on Tuesday night. And it probably will never have to face a Harry Perretta team again. That should be a relief.