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Villanova Hangs On To Top Penn

Dec. 13, 2005

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Allan Ray scored 19 points and No. 3 Villanova withstood a 24-7 run late in the second half to beat pesky Penn 62-55 on Tuesday night at the Palestra.

Randy Foye scored 16 points and Mike Nardi had 14 for the Wildcats (7-0), who got off to a shaky start in the first of three straight games against their Big 5 city rivals before opening the Big East season at No. 4 Louisville on Jan. 5.

The Quakers (3-4) put quite a scare into Villanova's first 7-0 start since 1995-96.

With top reserve Steve Danley out with a concussion and leading scorer Ibrahim Jaaber held to one point in the first half, the Quakers found themselves down by 21 early in the second.

Then Jaaber got rolling, the Wildcats couldn't buy a basket and this turned into another city series classic.

Every Penn basket in the second half was a layup until Jaaber hit a 3 that made it 55-40 with 6:40 left. The Quakers had missed all 18 3-point attempts until Jaaber, who scored 14 points, hit one from the right side.

Mark Zoller converted a Villanova turnover into a layup, then Penn forced a jump ball that led to two free throws from Friedrich Ebede that got the deficit to 11. With the Penn student section clad in red and rocking the famed home of the Big 5 like they would for a game this big, Jaabber made two more free throws to make it 55-46.

With Gov. Ed Rendell applauding the Penn rally from the stands, Ebede went strong inside for another basket to make it 55-48.

Jaabber hit a jumper from the right and punched his fist in the air as the crowd erupted. After another Villanova miss, Jaaber delivered again, this time making one of two free throws that pulled the Quakers to 55-51 with just under 2 minutes left.



Villanova coach Jay Wright, already nervously glancing at the scoreboard after every basket, erupted at the refs after the Wildcats were whistled for a technical for having too many players on the court. Jaaber went to the free throw line and hit both shots, pulling the Quakers to 57-53 and capping the incredible run.

Ray's layup with 12:29 left in the half was Villanova's last field goal until Foye's pull-up jumper with 52 seconds left pushed the lead to 59-53 and the Wildcats survived their toughest test yet.

Ebede finished with 13 points and Zoller had 12 for the Quakers.

The Wildcats were 7-for-22 from the field in the second half and committed 15 turnovers in the game.

Kyle Lowry, one of Villanova's four starting guards scoring in double digits, played only 1 minute in the first half after picking up two quick fouls, and was held scoreless.