PHILADELPHIA -- The defending national champion Villanova Wildcats opened the 2016-17 season with six games in 13 days.
It was a grueling stretch for the No. 2-ranked team.
But they came away with six victories, including their most recent 63-47 win over the College of Charleston last Wednesday. After the win, the victorious Wildcats looked a bit weary.
A much-needed break was waiting and they'll now be rested and ready when they open the Big Five portion of their schedule Tuesday night versus city rival Penn (7 p.m. ET) at the Palestra.
"This break comes at a good time for us," Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. "It was good for us to experience this. We got a lot of our offense and defense in knowing that we would face this stretch where we wouldn't get a lot of practice in. I think it paid off for us. We were prepared but, on the other hand, I don't know if we were mentally prepared for this many games back-to-back. We had a couple of them -- Western Michigan, maybe this one -- where we didn't have great energy."
Preseason player-of-the-year candidate Josh Hart led the way against the Cougars with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Hart has been a team leader and a budding star thus far this season.
"We need to learn to bring it every night," Wright said. "That was the key to Ryan (Arcidiacono) and Daniel (Ochefu) last year. They had a mature approach to every game. Their approach was like that of a 15-year NBA veteran -- they came to work every day. Josh is really getting good at that. But our team's got to get good at that."
The Quakers (2-2) opened their season with four consecutive road games -- wins at Robert Morris and Central Connecticut State and a loss at Miami and, most recently, a two-point loss at Navy last Wednesday.
Junior Caleb Wood led Penn in scoring for the second game in a row with 15 points at Navy.
Sophomore Jackson Donahue knocked down four treys, which are as many as he hit in the Quakers' first three games combined. Donahue added six assists for a career high.
But Penn made just four -- and attempted six -- free throws with none coming in the second half.
Now the Quakers get a chance to come back home with a difficult matchup in Villanova. It's a daunting task for sure.
"It isn't easy to play on the road in college basketball, and we've started the season with four straight away from home," Penn head coach Steve Donahue told the Daily Pennsylvanian after the loss at Navy. "Winning this game would've been a great step for us, but I think regardless of the result we showed some of the growth this team has had in the past couple weeks. It's just about overcoming some of the things we didn't do well today and getting ready for a tough game against Villanova."