PHILADELPHIA, PA. 2/17/2016 – There was excitement coming into this game. The crowd at the Liacouris Center and the Temple campus felt the Owls could beat top ranked Villanova. The teams took the court and the Villanova Wildcats showed excitement as well. When it was all said and done Villanova came away with an 83 – 67 win in front of 10,472, their sixth straight, and claimed the Big Five title for the third consecutive year.
“We are really proud of where we are,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “Big Five games are just totally different. We know everything that comes with it. We are proud of playing in the Big Five. We are very proud when we win the Big Five. We know how special it is in this city.”
In order to win Big Five games Wright is keenly aware that someone steps up that you need to adjust to during the course of the game. That goes for both teams. For Villanova that player was freshman guard Jalen Brunson, son of former Temple player Rick Brunson, who scored a carer-high 25 points on 9 of 11 shooting. The Owls defensive plan was to take away Ryan Arcidiacono and Josh Hart. Brunson filled the void simply by making the right plays in a hostile environment.
“I came into this game with the same mentality I have for each game,” Brunson said. “I treat every game the same with the same preparation. That’s what I did.”
“I was playing for my teammates, not the crowd. They were excited for me and I kept trying to make the right plays.”
The Wildcats knew that Quention DeCosey and Josh Brown could cause problems for them and defended accordingly. It was freshman guard Trey Lowe that got it going for Temple especially in the second half finishing with his career-high of 21 points making 5 of 8 from beyond the arc all in the second half.
“The Coaches told me to keep my head and wait for my turn,” Lowe said. “My time will come they said, so stay in the game and let everything come to you.”
“This game will boost my confidence and it did, so I am going to keep working off this game and build more on my game.”
It was a situation where the lesser profile guys showed what they could do.
“Jalen Brunson was tremendous,” said Temple Coach Fran Dunphy. “He seized the moment. On our side Trey Lowe seized the moment. It was terrific to watch two freshman go like that with no fear. They just wanted that opportunity.”
In the final analysis Wright’s team had more weapons.
Villanova took the lead early. With the game tied at 7 at the 15:07 mark the Wildcats went on an 18 – 6 run over the next 8 minutes to lead 25 – 13. Key for the Cats in the run was defense. Temple made 3 of 12 shots in that span and turned the ball over 3 times. Brunson and Phil Booth supplied the points with 6 and 5 counters.
At intermission the Wildcats held a 35 – 23 lead. If the Owls were going to make a comeback, it was now. But Villanova charged out of the locker room with a 9 – 2 run over the first 4 minutes to lead by 44 – 25. Temple spent the rest of the half trying to climb out of that hole. The lead closed to 11 with 2:30 to play. The Owls did play a better second half and made 7 of 14 from distance after going 1 for 10 in the first.
“They came out and played a little better than us,” said Obi Enechionyia who scored 15 points and grabbed 9 rebounds for Temple. “We were down but came back to cut it to eleven, so I am looking forward to next year.”
Daniel Ochefu scored 16 points for the Wildcats and took down a team-best 9 rebounds. Kris Jenkins contributed 15 points and Booth notched 12. Arcidiacono had a game-high 8 assists.
The Cherry and White did not have the services of point guard Josh Brown who missed the first 9 minutes due to a time management problem. He finished the game with 13 points. DeCosey finished with 10 points and 9 rebounds.
Villanova (23 – 3, 4 – 0 Big Five) will retain their #1 ranking and will return to Big East play hosting Butler on Saturday. Temple slips to 16 – 8 (2 – 2 Big Five). The Owls hold on to the top spot in The American and will resume conference play at Houston on Sunday.
NOTES: Villanova won two Big Five titles on Wednesday. Them men took the city title at Temple. With La Salle defeating Saint Joseph’s in the afternoon, it gave Villanova the women’s Big Five crown.
Written By: Glenn Papazian