VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — Villanova got another strong performance from Mouphtaou Yarou to get past Pennsylvania on Saturday night.
Yarou had 21 points and 11 rebounds to lead Villanova to a 73-65 victory over the Quakers.
The 6-foot-10 junior center recorded his fourth double-double of the season, matching his entire total from 33 games last season.
“He did a good job of playing through (Penn’s) physicality,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “I was really impressed that he was able to battle like that.”
Yarou didn’t even realize he had a double-double until told during the postgame press conference.
“I wasn’t even thinking about it,” he said. “I was trying to get every offensive rebound, play defense and help my team win. I just wanted to get a ‘W’.”
Darrun Hilliard added 13 points for the Wildcats (5-2), who snapped a two-game losing streak.
Villanova won despite a quiet night from leading scorer Maalik Wayns, who entered averaging 20 points per game, but netted just 11.
Wright, however, was pleased with his junior point guard’s all-around performance.
“Maalik set the tone for our team defensively,” Wright said. “(When) our captain and leading scorer is out there flying around, defending, taking charges, diving on the floor, then they all play that way.”
Zack Rosen had 21 points to lead Penn (4-5), which couldn’t overcome the Wildcats’ talent or size advantage. Tyler Bernadini added 13 points and Miles Cartwright had 12 for the Quakers.
“They play together, they play unselfish and they all know their roles,” Penn coach Jerome Allen said of the Wildcats.
It was the ninth straight win over the Quakers for Villanova, which has won all eight meetings at the Pavilion.
Penn, which trailed by 18 at halftime, cut the margin to 69-65 on Rosen’s 3-pointer with 14.6 seconds remaining, but couldn’t get closer.
Rosen, who earlier this season called “moral victories pointless,” was pleased with the Quakers’ performance in the second half when Penn outscored Villanova 45-35.
“In the second half, we did what we do,” Rosen said. “We played well enough to win in the second half but didn’t deserve to win in the first half.”
Villanova took its biggest lead of the game when Ty Johnson converted a running layup at the first-half buzzer to make it 38-20.
Penn cut the advantage to eight, 42-34, with 12:32 remaining when Bernardini’s layup capped an 8-0 Penn run. But the Quakers couldn’t close the gap until Rosen’s 3-pointer from the right wing made it 63-57 with 45.4 seconds left. Yarou gave the Wildcats some breathing room, seemingly sealing it, with a three-point play on the Wildcats’ ensuing possession.
Rosen hit another 3 with 15 seconds left to get within four, at 69-65, then James Bell hit four free throws to clinch it.
Penn struggled from the field in the opening 20 minutes, shooting 7 for 24 (29.2 percent) overall while missing all nine of its 3-point attempts. And the Quakers allowed Villanova to shoot 15 for 29 (51.7 percent) before intermission.
“We weren’t defending like we need to in the first half but we missed a lot of open shots we normally hit,” Rosen said. “We could’ve kept ourselves in it but it would’ve been misleading because we weren’t defending.”
Said Allen, “I thought we gave ourselves a chance because we started believing on the defensive end.”
The Quakers, after missing their first 10 3-pointers, finished 7 for 22 (31.8 percent) from behind the arc and 24 for 55 (43.6 percent) overall.
Villanova shot 22 for 55 (40.0 percent) for the game.
Villanova played without forwards Maurice Sutton and Markus Kennedy after both were injured in practice. Sutton likely will be sidelined for three to four weeks, according to Wright, with a dislocated left thumb. Kennedy is day-to-day with a right shoulder contusion. Wright is hoping to have him back for Villanova’s game against Missouri Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)