PHILADELPHIA -- Villanova's leading scorer didn't start. Its third-leading scorer didn't finish.
Senior guard Corey Stokes was the one who picked up the slack, scoring a career-high 34 points to pace the 12th-ranked Wildcats to a 65-53 victory over pesky Penn on Wednesday night in the Palestra.
Stokes was 11 for 15 from the field, 5 for 9 from 3-point range, as Villanova (8-1) beat the Quakers for the eighth straight time despite scoring its fewest points in a game this season.
"Thank God for Corey Stokes," Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. "Corey Stokes was incredible."
Penn guard Zack Rosen was a high school teammate of Stokes at St. Benedict's in New Jersey.
"We let one guy beat us," said Rosen, who had 20 points and five assists.
Senior forward Antonio Pena added 16 points and eight rebounds for the Wildcats, but it was Stokes who scored seven points in a 9-2 second-half run that enabled the Wildcats to extend their lead to 49-36. The Quakers (4-4) never drew closer than seven after that.
Stokes, whose 3-pointer amid that flurry gave him 1,000 points for his career, was also the one who compensated for the absence of top scorer Corey Fisher by scoring six points in the game's opening minutes. Fisher sat out the first 2:15 for disciplinary reasons.
"He got in an argument with me Sunday at practice," Wright said. "You don't do that when you're a senior leader."
The Wildcats lost sophomore guard Maalik Wayns when he hit his head on the court while drawing a charging foul with 1:22 left in the first half. He did not return, though Wright said he and his staff were being "overly cautious."
"We think he's going to be fine," he said.
Fisher and Wayns, who combined to average over 28 points a game, totaled just six - four by Fisher, who came in averaging 15.6 points through the team's first eight games.
The Quakers crawled out of an early 12-4 hole by outscoring the Wildcats 13-4 to take their only lead of the game, 17-16, with 8:33 left in the first half.
Wayns scored his only basket 10 seconds later to give Villanova the lead for good. But Penn was only down 30-23 at halftime, and was within 40-34 before Stokes keyed the pivotal 9-2 run.
"I come out every night with confidence," he said, "and my teammates got me open shots."
A fact duly noted by Penn coach Jerome Allen.
"No disrespect," he said, "but if we had been focused, he wouldn't have had the night he had. Too many open looks."
And, Allen added, "There's no sense of achievement that we held them to their lowest points of the season. We wanted to win the game."
Villanova won its second straight since suffering their only loss of the season, to No. 11 Tennessee in the NIT Season Tip-Off.