Penn beats No. 17 Villanova for first time since 2002, snaps Wildcats’ 25-game Big 5 win streak

Penn did it.

The Red & Blue were simply better than the defending national champion Villanova Wildcats throughout their matchup at the Palestra Tuesday night, notching a 78-75 victory that underscored how each Big 5 squad is trending in opposite directions.

The continuation of Penn’s remarkable improvement made history at No. 17 Villanova’s expense, repeatedly getting easy buckets via cuts to the basket and making just enough free throws down the stretch to snap Villanova’s 15-game winning streak over Penn (dating back to Dec. 10, 2002) and 25-game Big 5 win streak (dating back to Dec. 5, 2013).

Penn’s 15 losses to the Wildcats during the former streak since came by an average of 17.8 points per game.

But coming off a remarkable run consisting of two national championships in three seasons, Villanova (8-3) has struggled early in the 2018-19 campaign, sustaining a home loss to Furman and getting shellacked by Michigan in a rematch of last season’s national championship game.

In stark contrast, Penn (9-2) is rising despite losing last season’s leading scorer Ryan Betley to a season-ending injury in the opener, having upset Miami at the Palestra last Tuesday.

Penn took an 18-17 lead off a Jake Silpe jumper with 7:44 to play in the first half and never trailed again, going 8-for-10 from the free-throw line in the final minute to preserve the win despite an errant inbound pass out of bounds that gave the Wildcats one last chance down three with 1.3 seconds to go.

A desperation three-point attempt by Phil Booth, who had made a triple to halve Penn’s six-point lead with four ticks remaining, fell short and fans subsequently stormed Macquarie Court.

Penn started the game on a 14-2 run and led 32-28 at the half, taking advantage of good looks inside en route to scoring 1.20 points per possession and shooting 23-for-51 (51.1 percent) from the floor. Five different Quakers canned at least one three, and Penn went 25-for-37 (67.6 percent) from the foul line, drawing 27 fouls from a Wildcat squad that had trouble guarding the home team all night long.

The only player for either team to play all 40 minutes, Antonio Woods posted 16 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Despite picking up his fourth foul with 11:25 to play, AJ Brodeur remained impactful down the stretch and pitched in 16 points, six rebounds and four assists, going 7-for-12 from the foul line. Contributing several clutch crunchtime plays, including a three that extended Penn’s lead to 68-62 with 4:12 to play and two defensive rebounds in the final minute, Devon Goodman had 11 points and three assists. Off the bench, rookie Michael Wang contributed 14 points, including 7-for-8 from the charity stripe, and Jake Silpe registered 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting.

Penn dished 15 assists on 30 field goals, while Villanova had just six on 33. Collin Gillespie led the Wildcats with 21 points in 25 minutes of play, including a 10-for-11 clip from the foul line.

Villanova’s loss was its first to an Ivy since Nov. 20, 2012, when Columbia handled the Wildcats on the road, 75-57.


Penn is now 8-0 this season in games not played in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where it lost to Kansas State and Oregon State after besting Northern Iowa.

Penn’s win marked its first over a ranked Villanova team in 30 years, according to ESPN.

What’s truly remarkable is that Penn’s high level of play despite losing its leading scorer from a season ago, Ryan Betley, and Jelani Williams to season-ending injuries.

This Penn win is one for record books and memory banks.

1 thought on “Penn beats No. 17 Villanova for first time since 2002, snaps Wildcats’ 25-game Big 5 win streak”

  1. Better Ivy win than Yale over Baylor a few years ago. Not since Cornell’s Sweet 16 run engineered by Steve Donahue has an Ivy team accomplished such a feat. Penn should at least be one of those “Other Teams Receiving Votes…” in this week’s polling. 15 assists tells you all you need to know about this one. Great news for our league, bad news for the Tigers who must play the Quakers twice in a week in January.

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