Game 2: Villanova 103, Penn 65

With a correction from the orginal version, couresty of longtime Penn statistician Stu Stuss.

Well, that was pretty gruesome, wasn't it.

If you're a Villanova fan, you have to be quite pleased with Maalik Wayns' team-high 16 points and the extended floor time given to the freshman trio of Wayns, Dominic Cheek and Mouphtaou Yarou.

But if you're neutral, you were either asleep five minutes in or scrambling to find an online feed somewhere of the Miami (Ohio)-Kentucky game.

(If you did find it, you saw John Wall hit the game-winner with half a second left. Anyone want some spare hype?)

The 38-point margin was among Penn's worst in program history.

(I had originally written that it was Penn's worst regular-season defeat in program history and its worst overall since Villanova's famous 90-47 win in the 1971 NCAA Tournament, citing a story in the Daily Pennsylvanian. Stu informed me that there have been worse regular-season defeats.)

But it was not the largest margin in Big 5 history. As Joe Juliano notes in his game recap, that honor belogs to Villanova's 98-57 win over La Salle in 2005.

(Which says at least a little something about how dominant the Wildcats have been for a while now.)

Villanova shot 58.7 percent from the field for the game, making 37 of 63 attempts. The Wildcats were 11-for-21 from three-point range (52.4%), 26-for-42 from two-point range (61.9%), and 18-for-23 from the free throw line (78.3%).

They pulled down 13 offensive rebounds and 33 defensive rebounds, and tallied 19 assists, 15 turnovers, four blocks and eight steals. Eleven of those turnovers came in the second half.

It adds up to 74 possessions and a whopping 1.380 points per possession. The breakdown by half was 1.515 points per possession in the first half and 1.251 in the second.

Penn, by contrast, shot 34.5 percent from the field (20-for-58). The Quakers were 9-for-32 (28.1%) from outside the arc and 11-for-26 inside it (42.3%), and 16-for-27 from the free throw line (59.3%).

Yes, they really took 32 three-point attempts.

The Quakers pulled down 10 offensive and 16 defensive rebounds and tallied 13 assists, 14 turnovers, no blocks and 10 steals. Darren Smith led all scorers with 21 points on 6-for-15 shooting, including 4-for-9 from three-point range. Rob Belcore added 16 points.

From where I sat, there wasn't much defense played on either end. And Penn only took five fewer shots while committing one fewer turnover in 40 minutes.

But it was never going to be close, especially with Penn center Andreas Schreiber making only one of six field goal attempts and four of seven free throws. That does not bode well going forward.

Villanova, on the other hand, can take a lot from having given 10 players 13 or more minutes on the floor tonight. And there wasn't much of a difference between the starters and the bench, though the opposition certainly had something to do with that. With three games in four days coming up in Puerto Rico, having this kind of depth is going to serve the Wildcats very well.

Postgame audio is below, as is Antonio Pena's Line of the Game. Before you get there, I wrote a nice little riff before the game that I hope you like. Even if you don't want to re-live the game, at least read on a little bit.

I meant to write this before the Drexel-St. Joe's game, but I didn't have the time, so here goes.

We had a heck of a summer. The Phillies took us on another joyride, going so deep into November that we barely had a week to prepare for the college basketball season.

But I've noticed since the beginning of the month that a lot of people are looking for something else in sports to latch on to now. The Eagles' inconsistency isn't helping with that, and the Michael Vick saga burned bridges with some fans that no amount of winning will repair anytime soon.

The 76ers are mediocre at best, and the Flyers have a long way to go before their games get meaningful. So what should fans do?

Well, we're here. In truth, we know we've been here all along. But with Villanova, La Salle and Temple all primed for big seasons, it might be college basketball's turn to step up into the local spotlight.

I know that not everyone has their own affiliation. But there's nothing wrong with embracing the game itself. Every team has a student section with atmosphere, a coach in front of the microphone, a senior leader, and a talented freshman who will evolve over the season. Some, like the Wildcats, have more than just one.

Our local teams compete in four different conferences, all of which stand at different levels of the game. But they share so many things in common that we know that to follow one means we should follow them all.

And so tonight we come upon the strongest of those bonds: the Big 5. Penn and Villanova christen the 55th season of City Series basketball tonight at the Pavilion. It is a lopsided matchup on paper, to be sure. But it is a game nonetheless.

The students are here, the coaches are here, the players are here. The lights are up, the bands are playing, and the stage is set.

And since we're at Brian Westbrook's alma mater, let's take the advice of his coach (just this once).

Tonight, the time is indeed ours.

A. Pena