By Michael Donovan
It has been a long time since a Penn-Villanova game was consequential — the Wildcats have lapped the Big 5 field for the better part of 10 years while the Quakers have been in a decade-long slump.
And last night’s game at the Pavilion was a poster child for their status.
Jalen Brunson (above) scored 22 points and Daniel Ochefu had 12 points and 10 rebounds to help No. 16 Villanova roll past Penn 77-57.
The Wildcats (10-2) scored the first 14 points and led 30-3, cruising in their final game before the Big East opener Thursday against No. 6 Xavier.
“As soon as the ball goes up, we’re going to be ready,” Ochefu said. “Everyone knows, the Big East is a whole different best.”
The Wildcats have breezed through the non-conference portion of their schedule, stomping Nebraska, Akron and La Salle, among others, to assume their usual spot in the Top 25.
But against ranked teams, the Wildcats are 0-2, falling to No. 3 Oklahoma and now-No. 5 Virginia. The Sooners stomped the Wildcats by 23 points and Virginia pulled away late in an 86-75 win.
With a win against Xavier (12-0), the defending Big East champion Wildcats would show the road to the conference championship again starts at the Main Line.
“There’s no better learning situation than a game,” coach Jay Wright said.
Jackson Donahue led Penn with 18 points. Penn missed 15 of 16 3-point attempts and shot 17 percent overall from the field in the first half.
The Wildcats beat Penn for the 13th straight time and sent the Quakers to their sixth loss overall in seven games.
“I thought our preparation was great, but that’s why Villanova’s been so good over the last few years,” coach Steve Donahue said. “They just have kids that really buy into what they’re all about and just take pride in their defense.”
Ochefu, a 6-foot-11, 245-pound forward, had a soft touch on two jumpers and scored nine of Villanova’s first 11 points. Ryan Arcidiacono converted a three-point play and the Wildcats led 14-0. Arcidiacono scored 13 points.
“I take that shot practically every day at practice,” Ochefu said. “They gave me a lot of space and room to shoot.”
The Quakers committed four turnovers and missed four shots on their first eight possessions, setting the tone for a miserable game.
Brunson, the highly prized freshman guard, made 9 of 10 shots overall and scored 20 points in the second half.
“They just played us 1-on-1 and I was being aggressive,” Brunson said.
The Wildcats have won 13 straight games in the Big 5.