No. 22 Villanova will play its first fixture in the newly imagined Philadelphia Big 5 tournament when it pays a visit to Penn on Monday night.
The “Big 5” name is being kept, but all six of the city’s Division I men’s basketball teams are involved. They were split into two pods of three for a round robin at campus sites during November. Villanova, Penn and Saint Joseph’s are in one pod, and Temple, La Salle and Drexel comprise the other.
Based on the final results of round robin play, matchups will be drawn for the Big 5 Classic, a tripleheader at the Wells Fargo Center on Dec. 2. The winners of Pods 1 and 2 will square off in the championship game.
Villanova (2-0) is the strongest team in town once again. It has won its first two games by 27 and 26 points, respectively — 90-63 over American on Monday and 83-57 over Le Moyne.
In Friday’s win over Division I newcomer Le Moyne, Justin Moore led the way with 21 points, Tyler Burton posted 10 points and 13 rebounds, and Brendan Hausen went 6-for-8 from 3-point range to provide his career-high 18 points off the bench.
“He’s just a great shooter,” Villanova coach Kyle Neptune said of Hausen. “When he gets it going he can really make shots. None of us are surprised by that. Where he is continuing to improve, especially since last year, is defensively.”
Neptune was grateful for his team’s overall defensive showing, too, after the Dolphins led 20-17 at the midway point of the first half.
“We’ve got a team that tries to get stops,” he said. “Towards the back end of the first half, we got stops.”
Villanova is 51-18 all-time against Penn, and this will be its third time playing the Quakers at the famed Palestra since 2018. The Wildcats have won 18 of the past 19 meetings, but in December 2018 they fell 78-75 to the Quakers at the Palestra.
Penn (2-1) has had a busy start to the season. After one-sided wins over John Jay (a Division III program) and Bucknell, the Quakers opened Big 5 pod play with a 69-61 loss at Saint Joseph’s on Friday.
“That was an incredible environment,” Penn coach Steve Donahue told Philly College Sports. “The student section was great and that had a lot to do with our first half. We’re just not used to that. … It was a great college basketball environment.”
Penn’s Clark Slajchert, who averaged double-digit scoring each of the past two seasons, scored a game-high 27 points on 11-of-17 shooting, including 5-of-8 from distance.
Penn trailed 33-20 at halftime before its attempt to rally fell short. The Quakers got within 54-52 and 61-59 but never closer.
Though the format was not what it is this season, Donahue has led Penn to a Big 5 title once. The Quakers went 4-0 in Big 5 action in 2018-19, when they toppled Villanova.
“I’m excited for the format,” Donahue said Friday. “We’ve got to beat Villanova to stay in it. We just compete. I do love what we have.”
–Field Level Media