Villanova, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The 14th-ranked Villanova Wildcats are set to take on the Penn Quakers in the first Philadelphia Big 5 matchup of the season Wednesday night at The Pavilion.
Villanova is perhaps the nation's hottest team at the moment, having knocked off then second-ranked Kansas as well as No. 23 Iowa in back-to-back games to win last week's Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. The Wildcats are a perfect 7-0 on the season and jumped all the way up to No. 14 in this week's Top 25 poll, their first time being nationally ranked since coming in at No. 19 the week of Feb. 28, 2011.
Meanwhile, Penn has dropped three of its last four outings. The Quakers were in action this past Saturday at Lafayette and came away with a hard-fought 79-76 loss. Tony Hicks had a good look at a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the final seconds but his shot ultimately rimmed out. That game kicked off a stretch that will see the Quakers play five of six in opposing gyms.
Villanova has won each of the last 10 meetings with Penn and owns a 43-17 lead in the all-time series.
The Quakers shot 50.9 percent from the floor and went 14-of-15 at the charity stripe against Lafayette, as they led by as many as nine with 13:28 to play in regulation. However, the Leopards went on to drain 8-of-16 3-pointers in the second half to come out on top. Senior Fran Dougherty led Penn with a season- high 26 points to go along with nine rebounds, while Tony Hicks scored 16 in the loss.
Hicks leads the team with 19.0 points per game to pace four Quakers averaging double figures. He is the team's only player to have scored in double figures in each game so far this season, although four different players have led the way in scoring through the first six games. Darien Nelson-Henry is next in line with 13.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per tilt. As a team, Penn has shot 55 percent from the floor over its last two contests.
Senior wing James Bell headlined Villanova's win over Iowa, as he tallied 20 points and nine rebounds to go with a pair of blocks. But it was a series of three consecutive 3-pointers in just over a minute during the second half that trimmed the Nova's deficit from 12 points to three. The Wildcats eventually won it in overtime, as five different players finished in double figures. Bell was named MVP of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.
On the season, Bell is averaging 17.0 points and 6.3 rebounds per tilt, while JayVaughn Pinkston holds the team lead with 17.1 ppg.