From Randy Foye and Allan Ray to Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher, the little men have always keyed Villanova’s success under Jay Wright. His teams have employed as many as three and even four guards on the court at one time.

 

Which puts a lot of pressure for the guy left in the middle. Antonio Pena welcomes the challenge.

 

“I might be shorter than some dudes, so the key thing is to outwork them,’’ said the 6-foot-8, 235-pound Brooklyn, N.Y., native. “I knew we’d lost three seniors [including Dante Cunningham], so I knew I had to step up.”

 

After averaging 5.1 points and 4.2 rebounds last season, Pena has emerged as a junior. He’s averaging 11.2 points and 7.6 boards heading into tonight’s game. He’s also improved at the foul line, clinching a recent win over Marquette with two free throws. Last year, he clanked a pair with a chance to beat Louisville.

 

“I’m real pleased,” said Pena. “All the work I’ve put in all summer is starting to show off. My coaches and teammates have confidence in me. They trust me on the floor.”

Wright said Pena provides something different from his younger big men.

“He’s a forward who can guard bigs,” said Wright. “To have a guy who can guard inside and outside is really important.”