By Harry Allison
Collin Gillespie scored 26 points and Brandon Slater 16 and No. 6 Villanova beat Penn 71-56 at the Palestra.
The Wildcats’ (5-2) early 13-0 run gave them a cushion by halftime.
Gillespie’s 15.5 points per game are a career high and his 43% 3-point shooting is also better than any of his previous four seasons.
”There were games where I wasn’t as aggressive,” he said. ”I just try and stay aggressive at all times. Just try and become more of a complete player.”
Gillespie, making his 94th start over five seasons, hit four 3s in the first half and pushed back the smallest of Penn runs. He hit one for a seven-point lead, another for an 11-point lead and one more for a 16-point edge. That was good enough to hit cruise control against the Quakers (3-7). He finished 9-for-15 from the floor, and played 35 minutes without an assist.
Gillespie returned for a fifth season after he missed the end of last year with a torn MCL in his left knee.
”I see more of what he’s doing for everybody else on the team,” Wright said. ”I can see each day he’s getting quicker, he’s getting stronger, he’s getting more confident. You don’t just come back immediately from that. He’s getting closer to 100%.”
Jordan Dingle led Penn with 21 points. The Quakers did make 13 3-pointers.
The Wildcats played their second straight game at the Palestra against a Big 5 school following Sunday’s 26-point win against La Salle. The Wildcats needed the breather after opening the season with losses to No. 5 UCLA and No. 2 Purdue and a win against No. 13 Tennessee.
The building came alive briefly early in the second half when Clark Slajchert buried a 3-pointer, hit another basket and Penn forced a shot-clock violation that made it 43-34. Max Martz hit a 3 with 5:16 left that kept it a nine-point game.
The Wildcats had won a city-record 25 straight games before it lost to Penn in 2018 and hasn’t lost a Big 5 game again over that span, sucking the life out of the city series.