By Annie Ross

It was the first Big 5 game at the Palestra since Penn’s 66-59 win over Temple on Jan. 25, 2020.

So we should give thanks for that.

But that’s it.

Because all Villanova’s blowout of La Salle last night at the old barn in 33rd Street did was remind us of what the Big 5 was in its glory years.

When a La Salle upset would have been nothing to surprised about.

Collin Gillespie scored 13 points in a balanced team effort, and No. 7 Villanova beat La Salle 72-46.

Brandon Slater added 12 points and Caleb Daniels and Eric Dixon each had 11 for the Wildcats (4-2), who played for the first time since a Nov. 21 loss to No. 3 Purdue.

Villanova dominated early, leading 42-17 at the half.

“I loved our defense in the first half, I really did,” Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. “And it got us easy baskets.”

Khalil Brantley scored 17 points and Jhamir Brickus had 13 for La Salle (2-3), which had just one assist on 14 field goals.

The Wildcats jumped out to a 9-0 lead as the Explorers missed their first six shots and committed a pair of turnovers.

Villanova eventually grew the first-half lead to as many as 30 points, 39-9, on Slater’s driving layup with 4:23 left before the break. La Salle had missed 16 of 18 shots and had seven turnovers at that point.

Brantley had 12 points and was 3 of 6 from the field in the first half, while the rest of the Explorers were a combined 1 for 20.

“We struggled to score the ball, and we never recovered from not starting the game off with some pop on offense,” La Salle coach Ashley Howard said. “The thing that’s difficult is you’re playing Villanova. So if you’re playing anybody else and the ball doesn’t go in, you know it may be a game at halftime where it’s 19-18 and you just get stops and keep the game within reach.”