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Penn-Villanova Preview

AP - Sports

Following a statement-making performance en route to the Battle 4 Atlantis title, Villanova returns home with its first Top 25 ranking in almost three years.

The No. 14 Wildcats will face significantly easier competition when Pennsylvania visits looking to snap a 10-game losing streak in this Big Five rivalry Wednesday night.

Villanova (7-0) opened eyes in the Bahamas with dramatic back-to-back wins over a pair of ranked and undefeated teams on the way to the tournament crown.

Ryan Arcidiacono hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 10.1 seconds left in a 63-59 win over then-No. 2 Kansas on Friday, and the Wildcats rallied from 12 down with 11 minutes remaining for an 88-83 overtime victory over No. 23 Iowa in the championship game Saturday.

''We've got a lot of heart,'' said coach Jay Wright, whose squad is ranked for the first time since the week of Feb. 28, 2011. ''We've got good depth. Our young guys are growing up. Still only November, though. We've got a long way to go.''

Tournament MVP James Bell led five Wildcats in double figures with 20 points, nine rebounds and four 3-pointers against the Hawkeyes, while Josh Hart scored 14.

Bell, averaging 17.0 points, bounced back from Friday's season-worst 10-point effort and 2-of-9 shooting to claim Big East player of the week honors.

"We've had him for four years and he's hit so many big shots," Wright told the team's official website. "What I really admire about him is his self-esteem. You can tell a player's self-esteem by his willingness to take big shots when things aren't going well."

Villanova has won eight straight at home, taking its first four there this season by an average of 21.3 points. JayVaughn Pinkston has played particularly well at The Pavilion, averaging 20.3 points and 56.3 percent shooting.

Villanova has won by double digits eight times during its 10-game winning streak against the Quakers (2-4), who haven't had a victory in the series since Dec. 10, 2002.

Penn dropped its second straight road game Saturday, 79-76 to previously winless Lafayette.

Fran Dougherty's 3-pointer with 10 seconds left got the Quakers within 78-76, but the Leopards added a free throw before Tony Hicks missed a potential tying 3-point attempt as time expired.

Dougherty finished with season highs of 26 points and nine rebounds, while Hicks added 16 points with a season-best four 3s.

Though Hicks has scored a team-leading 19.0 per game while shooting 46.1 percent, the sophomore guard has averaged 13.0 and 34.3 in three road contests.

The Quakers have totaled 161 points and shot 53.0 percent in their last two games, but figure to have a tougher matchup in a Villanova team that ranks among the Big East leaders in field-goal percentage defense at 38.5.

Penn has lost 34 straight against ranked opponents since a 73-70 overtime win over then-No. 6 Temple, another Big Five team, on Nov. 23, 1998.

The Wildcats are playing their first Big Five contest this season, while Penn suffered a 78-73 season-opening loss to the Owls.

Villanova has won all eight meetings with Penn at The Pavilion.

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