PHILADELPHIA, December 10, 2011 – In recent years the premier Big Five game has been the Temple Owls against the Villanova Wildcats. The two teams have been the most successful in local college basketball. It was Temple that ended Villanova’s Big Five win streak when they last visited the Liacouris Center. The Wildcats were ranked #3 in the nation at that time. Since that game the Blue and White won 13 of 14 City Series games. The Cherry and White came into the game with a 23 game winning streak on their home floor. Add to the drama the situation with Temple and Big East membership fanned the flame of rivalry. But clearly this game meant something.
It took a career-high 32 point performance from Temple Senior Guard Ramone Moore and a career-high 14 rebounds from Junior Forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson to propel Temple to a 78 – 67 win over Villanova in front of 10,206 fans at the Liacouris Center.
“He is the glue of our group,” Temple Coach Fran Dunphy said of Ramone Moore. “He’s had these games before when we needed him. We couldn’t win without him having this type of game.”
The game was hard-fought throughout. Each team would take a lead only to find the other would come back. Villanova had a 36 – 35 lead at halftime. Moore scored 9 points at the first half. Villanova Junior Guard Maalik Wayns put in 13 points. The second half started the same way. Then Moore began to find the range as he scored 8 of Temple’s first 10 points of the half. His 3 at the 14:44 mark put the Owls in front 45 – 43. Villanova would find a way to tie the game at 54 on a layup by Sophomore Guard James Bell. The Owls responded by going on a 10 – 0 sparked by Moore who scored 6 points in the spurt. His jumper with 6:15 to play gave the Owls a 64 – 54 lead and control of the game. The Wildcats got no closer than 7 points.
“That was the most important stretch,” said Moore. “I told the guys, to keep the lead we had to rebound, and we made the free throws down the stretch, and did a good job against their pressure.”
Playing without Graduate Center Michael Eric and Senior Forward Scootie Randall who were out with injuries, conventional wisdom said Villanova would have an advantage in the front court. Junior Center Mouphtaou Yarou did his part scoring 14 points and taking down 8 rebounds. However, Temple had the advantage 48 – 28 in Points in the Paint, and a 22 – 12 lead in Second Chance Points. Temple did not do it the conventional way. The Owls did get 6 points from Freshman Forward Anthony Lee and 11 points from Hollis-Jefferson, but most of the points came from the Temple guards driving to the basket.
“The opportunity presented itself to take the ball to the basket,” said Moore. “I told the guys to go inside to the basket and get to the foul line.”
“We had good inside baskets with the Guards creating opportunities for the big guys,” Dunphy said.
While Temple reflected on the offensive aspect, Villanova Coach Jay Wright credited the Temple defense for the inside edge for the Owls.
“What hurt us was we thought was had an advantage going to the interior, getting the ball to Mouph (Yarou),” Villanova Coach Jay Wright said. “They did a good job moving hom off the block. We couldn’t get the ball to him.”
The last points Yarou scored came with 11:01 to play in the game.
Temple Junior Guard Khalif Wyatt added 11 points. Lee added 9 rebounds. Senior Guard Juan Fernandez scored 6 points and handed out 4 assists. The double-double by Hollis-Jefferson was the second of his career.
Wayns had a tough second half but did manage to scored a team-high 23 points and added 7 assists. Junior Guard Dominic Cheek added 10 points. The big three of Wayns, Cheek, and Yarou scored 47 of Villanova’s 67 points.
With the win the Owls improve to 6 – 2 on the season and are 2 - 0 in the Big Five. The Wildcats are now 5 – 4, 2 – 1 in the City Series. Temple meets Texas on the road. Villanova takes on Boston University on December 13, then winds up Big Five play against Saint Joseph’s on December 17.
“We got beat by a better team,” Wright said. “They made so many little plays. They’re a smart team.”
Temple earns the bragging rights beating Villanova. The best in city crown has yet to be decided. Saint Joseph’s will have a say in who gets the title, and Penn and La Salle could be a spoiler. As for now Temple is riding high. Their rooting section unfurled a roll-out saying “This is our City!”
Written By: Glenn Papazian