Dec. 3, 2013
VILLANOVA, Pa. - After a heady weekend at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas, the No. 14 ranked Villanova Wildcats get back to the business of basketball on Wednesday evening at the Pavilion when Penn pays a visit (8:00 p.m./Fox Sports 1 and WHAT 1340 Radio).
Villanova knocked off No. 2 Kansas and No. 23 Iowa en route to claiming the Battle 4 Atlantis crown on Paradise Island over three days of the Thanksgiving weekend.
"We have players that like to play with a high energy," stated Wildcats head coach Jay Wright. "Josh Hart is an example of that. He's a freshman but it's not us - he was playing that way before he came to us. I think now he's inspiring his teammates. Ryan Arcidiacono played that way naturally before he came here.
"We want to play that way and it's hard to do for three nights in a row. That's something we were proud of - how hard we played for two and half of the three games. On the last night, I thought we played hard in the second half but were sluggish in the first half."
The Wildcats will need to carry that energy into a series of Philadelphia Big Five clashes that begins Wednesday night at home against Penn, continues Saturday at Saint Joseph's and wraps up on Dec. 15 when La Salle comes to the Pavilion. (Villanova's fourth City Series game takes place on Feb. 1 at Temple.)
Penn brings a 2-4 record into Wednesday night's contest and already has played a Big Five game (a 78-73 loss to Temple on the season's opening weekend last month). The Quakers are led in scoring by Tony Hicks at 19.0 ppg and also lean on senior guard Miles Jackson-Cartwright, who scored 16 points in last season's 68-55 Villanova victory.
"This is a very good team," stated Wright. "We know this will be a battle. It's a Big Five game and I think our guys understand how passionate these games are."
One significant storyline of late for the Wildcats has been the productivity the bench has supplied. Freshmen Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins combined to score 26 points in VU's 88-83 overtime victory over Iowa in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Junior Dylan Ennis has provided a lift since joining the lineup after missing four weeks with a fractured bone in his right (shooting) hand and Tony Chennault has provided a steady presence highlighted by a worksheet that features 24 assists against only five turnovers.
"We knew our bench was going to have to play heavy minutes against Iowa and I thought they did a great job," noted Wright.
Those three victories boosted Villanova back into the national rankings for the first time since February 2011. The attention is appreciated by the Wildcats but there is also a determination to keep addressing the details that help lead to success.
"We always talk about our next game being the most important one we play," said guard Ryan Arcidiacono. "Last weekend was a great experience but our focus now is on Penn."
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