The last three seasons, Villanova defeated all of their Philadelphia opponents, to claim the Big 5 Title. Wednesday night, the Wildcats did it again. The last 12 victories, going back to 2013, were all by a double-digit margin of at least a dozen points.
Wednesday night the Wildcats knocked off the Temple Owls 83-67 at the Liacouras Center in front of 10,472. The atmosphere was nothing short of a typical Big East game for the Wildcats. The Liacouras Center was loud and electrifying as the Owls looked to win their fourth game over a ranked opponent and knock off No. 1 Villanova.
Villanova improves to 23-3, 4-0 in the Big 5 as Temple drops to 16-9, 2-2 in the Big 5.
Although it was not the best 40 minutes coach Jay Wright’s squad has played, their defense was enough to defeat the Owls and silence their rambunctious student section.
Freshman Jay Brunson led the Wildcats on the nightm finishing with 25 points including three straight three pointers in the second half. Kris Jenkins and Phil Booth finished with 15 and 12 points, respectively. Senior forward Daniel Ochefu grabbed nine rebounds and 16 points in his second game back from injury.
It was a breakout night for freshman, as Temple’s freshman Trey Lowe led the Owls with a career high 21 points, going 5-of-8 from the three point line. Three other Owls finished with double figures. Sophomore Obi Enechionyia notched 15 points and nine rebounds. Senior Quenton DeCosey finished one rebound shy of a double double with 10 points and nine rebounds. Josh Brown chipped in with 13 points and four assists for Temple.
The Wildcats had an early 8-0 run in the first half, six of them coming from Booth. Villanova had a 14-pint lead just five minutes into the game. The Owls fought hard, but still went into the half down 35-23. Villanova shot 46 percent going 4of-11 from long range as the Owls shot 38 percent, 1-of-10 from long range in the first half.
In the second half, the No. 1 team in college basketball came out showing why they have that rank. The Wildcats increased the lead to 22 before freshman Trey Lowe got a two-handed slam at the 13:29 mark to get the Owls back into it. With 7:11, the Owls were within 12 behind a three three-pointers by Lowe. The Owls closest margin in the second half was 11. Despite a hard-fought effort, it was not enough as the Wildcats defeated them by a 16-point deficit to snap the Owls five-game winning streak.
Coming into the game the Owls had three wins over ranked opponents and a 16-9 record. It was a game similar to a conference or post-season game as the Wildcats continue to prepare for the final five games of the season.
The Big 5 remains a strong area for college basketball. The last 38 years, at least one Big 5 team has made the NCAA tournament. Based on the current records of Villanova (23-3) and St. Joes (22-4), at least two of the teams will be returning to the tournament again this season.
Next the Owls have two road games against American Athletic Conference opponents. Up first, the Owls tip off at 7 p.m. game at Houston on Sunday, Feb. 21 (ESPNews/1210 AM WPHT).
With five games left, the Wildcats have some more tough opponents ahead of them. This upcoming Saturday, they face Butler at home before travelling to the Midwest to play at Xavier and Marquette next week. The Wildcats finish at home in the first week of March against DePaul and Georgetown.