Game 9: Villanova — The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

The Palestra hosted its first Big 5 matchup of the 2012-13 campaign, a foul-filled and turnover-laden affair between Penn and Villanova. Despite shooting just 4-for-17 from the field in the first half, the Quakers stayed in the game behind 24 free throw attempts, including a perfect 8-for-8 performance from Miles Cartwright, in the opening frame. But Penn could not keep pace with Villanova in the second, as its shooting woes continued and turnovers piled up. The Wildcats extended their lead to double digits and shutdown Penn's attempts to get back in the game, as Villanova went on to win, 68-55.

THE GOOD: Steve Rennard puts up 12 points.
After scoring some crucial buckets toward the end of last season, the shooting guard had all but disappeared from the stat sheet this winter, averaging just 3.5 points per game through eight games. But Rennard looked more like himself tonight, knocking down two treys late in the game to go along with six free throws. Perhaps even more important than him scoring was that he didn't stop shooting even after his first couple shots rolled out. Penn will need him to stay confident and keep firing in order to make the Quakers a legitimate threat from three-point range.

THE BAD: Dougherty disappears.
Villanova came ready to guard Fran Dougherty and succeeded in stifling the junior forward. The Ivy League's leading scorer at 17.1 points per game finished with a measly two points on 1-for-3 shooting. Even in a game with 52 personal fouls between the teams (yes, we'll get to that), Doc shot no free throws whatsoever. After his seven-point performance against Penn State and tonight, it's become clear that opposing squads know that shutting down Doc is a key to beating Penn. And it would seem they're right.

THE UGLY: Hack-a-thon at the Palestra.
Villanova and Penn tallied a combined 52 personal fouls on the night, leading to 71 free throws. That said, the whopping number of fouls cannot be entirely attributed to the players, since the referees seemed determined to call virtually every bump, and love tap, as a foul. For a game between two Philadelphia basketball squads, the matchup had none of the grittiness or toughness expected from a Big 5 contest, primarily because anything smacking of toughness at all was called a foul.

Coaching rivalry? More like best buds

Penn football coach Al Bagnoli and Villanova coach Andy Talley go way back.

From scrimmages during their coaching days back at Union College and St. Lawrence, respectively, which date back to the late 70s and early 80s, a friendship grew and has remained over the past 30 years.

The two coaches, both of whom have over 200 career wins, will be taking each other on this weekend at the Penn home opener (see preview).

Below is what they had to say about their relationship and coaching against each other in the context of Saturday's game:

Bagnoli:

“When I got down here he was one of the first guys that reached out and showed me the way around Philly and suggested some things. We’ve had a long friendship. His main objective is to win the CAA and go to the postseason, while our main objective is to win the Ivy League championship. Now for those three hours, we’re actually in mortal combat, but once you get out of those three hours, we play golf together on occasions, we have dinner on occasions, we see each other every Wednesday at press conferences, we see each other at social functions, so I consider him a good friend of mine. If they were in the Ivy League, it would be completely different. Just the league dynamics.”

Talley:

— Penn Gazette Sports

"Penn-Villanova has turned into a great rivalry game. The coaches and players on both teams know each other well so that adds to the game in a positive way.

 

"Al and I have been friends for a long time. I have the utmost respect for him. He is a great football coach with an incredible coaching resume. He has done a phenomenal job throughout his career at Penn.

 

"Penn is always one of the best-coached teams we play. Playing at Franklin Field presents a big challenge due to the fact that Penn has always done a great job of protecting its home field. Penn is routinely tough against the run so their run defense will present us with a lot of challenges. I fully expect another 60-minute battle that will more than likely come down to the final few plays of the game."

This Week on 33rd Street: Dec 9

We're back in the Palestra for our final episode of the semester — Kevin Esteves is with Brian Kotloff and Eli Cohen as they recap the week in Penn men's basketball against Villanova and Delaware, then look forward to Saturday's game at UCLA.

If you're having trouble viewing the video, click here.

Game 10: Villanova – The Good, Bad and Ugly

In the second-half, the Quakers made things interesting — just not interesting enough as Penn dropped its second Big 5 game this year to Villanova Saturday night, 73-65.

The Good: Marin Kukoc and Cam Gunter both showed good 6th-man potential (Kukoc for the second-straight game), combining for 13 points (seven for Kukoc, six for Gunter). While Kukoc's 3-for-9 stat-line (including 1-for-6 from three) is nothing to be excited about, the shots he made had a relatively high degree of difficulty. Gunter was able to find some open space down low and get three easy baskets in the second half.

The Bad: Penn's 20 first-half points were a season low. The Quakes shot 29.2 percent from the field before the break — a whopping 0-for-9 from downtown. It all added up to an 18-point deficit that Penn couldn't overcome despite beating Villanova by 10 in the second half.

The Ugly: Villanova's no-sign policy. The Red and Blue Crew had their Big 5 rollouts confiscated as they entered the Pavilion last night, which is simply lame. Apparently this isn't the first time it has happened, either. This is one of the best traditions in Philly sports, and considering the declining interest in the conference, all five schools should be making an effort to encourage students' involvement.

Liveblog: Penn basketball at Villanova – Brought to you by the Blarney Stone

Coming live from the Main Line, Penn takes on Villanova in both team's second Big 5 games. The Quakers are even at 4-4 (0-1 Big 5), while the Wildcats are 4-2 (1-0). Penn hasn't beaten 'Nova since 2002, but the Quakers are looking to take advantage of a rebuilding year for Jay Wright's team. Follow along as Eli Cohen and John Phillips bring you the action from the Pavilion.

Video: DP basketball writers preview the 'Nova matchup.

Click Here to open in a new window.
 

This Week on 33rd Street: Dec. 2

We've got some new faces in This Week on 33rd Street today. Basketball beats Alyssa Kress and Ethan Alter joined the cast this week with Brian Kotloff and Kevin Esteves to break down the upcoming Big 5 battle with Villanova:

If you're having trouble viewing the video, click here.

Penn vs. Nova will be on ESPN3

Aside

Who loves the Big 5? ESPN, apparently. The worldwide leader in sports will broadcast the Quakers' Saturday tilt with Villanova online at ESPN3.com. Perhaps after watching Penn go to overtime vs. Temple (that game was not broadcast on TV), ESPN didn't want to let another Big 5 matchup go to waste. Penn students: if you're on a Penn internet connection, this means you have access to ESPN3!

Bad blood brewing in the Big 5 between Temple, Villanova

Philadelphia_Big_5_logo-thumb1The Big 5 has always been about intense local rivalries. But a growing quarrel off the court may be putting cracks in the foundation of Philadelphia's classic conference.

Yesterday, the Big East invited six teams to join its conference among ongoing realignment. Not invited: Temple, which has tried mightily to put itself in a position to move its football team out of the Mid-Atlantic Conference. According to Dick Weiss of the New York Daily news:

Temple officials feel Villanova did not want another Philadelphia team in the league and used the the support of the other Big East Catholic schools to keep their school out when it came to a vote on which six teams to invite.

The Inquirer's Mike Jensen also weighed in on the news. The beginning of his column was ominous, to say the least:

Let's start with the long view: The Big Five is in jeopardy.

If it splinters again, if all the schools stop playing each other, Villanova will be the culprit, again.

and then towards the end:

Temple is smart enough not to comment on all this right now. We doubt too much of it would be printable

And both writers think this politicking could have bigger implications for Philly basketball. From Weiss:

If Temple is relgated to the MAC in football and the Atlantic 10 in basketball, its annual basketball civil war against Villanova at the Liacoras Center this season promises to turn ugly and could eventually lead to the disolution to the long time round round City Series game that has become the corner stone of the hallowed Philadelphia Big 5.

What does this mean for the Quakers? Penn, it appears, is at the mercy of the powerhouses in the Big 5. Especially since the program has not been successful in the City Series for a few years, the Red and Blue don't have a ton of sway. The gap between Temple, Villanova and the rest of the Big 5 has widened — Neither the Owls nor the Wildcats have lost to Penn, La Salle or St. Joe's in the last three years. The sad reality is that the Big 5 may be becoming less relevant.

And there are other issues the conference must deal with. This year St. Joe's announced it would no longer play all of its Big 5 games in the Palestra, as the Hawks want to build their fanbase back up at home. St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli is one of the biggest backers of the Big 5, but even he realized the dire situation his program was in.

Amidst a year of drastic conference realignment in college sports, the Ivy League appears unblemished. But Penn's other affiliation, the Big 5, may not be long for this town.

Penn football vs. Nova: The good, bad and the ugly

Every year the Penn-Villanova game seems to go the exact same way: close game, Penn has a shot, but the Quakers just can't close it out. This year was no different as the Red and Blue lost 30-21 at Franklin Field after a late pick-6 for the Wildcats. Penn now drops to 0-2 on the young season.

The Good: Quarterback Billy Ragone was noticeably able to get into a better passing rhythm with the offense, going 15-for-26 and passing for 250 yards and a crisp, 4th-quarter touchdown to wide receiver Ryan Calvert to keep the game interesting. The 250 yards are a career best for Ragone. He was efficient enough tonight that coach Al Bagnoli felt he did not need to put backup Ryan Becker in at any point.

The Bad: The way this one ended. You don't expect Penn to drive 60 yards with under a minute left and kick a game-winning field goal. That would be a heck of an ending, but a surprise for sure. But an interception to put the game away? That's bad. Credit Villanova punter Mark Hamilton with a stellar 52-yard punt to pin Penn at the four-yard line for that drive. This is Ragone's second-consecutive week with two interceptions, and the picks are really hurting Penn.

The Ugly: Chalk this week's ugly up to deja vu. For the second time in two weeks, Penn receivers have bobbled difficult passes only to watch the coverage on defense grab the lose ball and take it in for the score. This week a low pass to Calvert bounched off his hands and chest and into the waiting arms of Nova's James Pitt, who took the ball in for six points.

Also a statistical side note: 79 of Ragone's career-high 250 passing yards were to sophomore Tommy Eggleston on desperation plays that ended each half. Eggleston caught a 40-yarder to go into halftime, and a 39-yarder as the game expired. Good individual efforts by Eggleston, but really just padding out the stat book.

Penn football vs. Nova: Post-game presser

Video from the post game press conferences, first, Penn coach Al Bagnoli with defensive back Matt Hamscher and wide receiver Ryan Calvert. Villanova coach Andy Talley is joined by quarterback Chris Culicerto and cornerback James Pitts.