As shocking as it is to consider, the big, bad Villanova Wildcats had not won an outright Philadelphia Big-5 title since the 2010-11 season. This despite being viewed as the "big brother" college basketball team in the city. On Saturday, the Wildcats had a chance to go 4-0 and cement their status as the top college team in Philly.
The no. 9 ranked Wildcats looked like a team with something to prove as they used a huge second half to dominate the Temple Owls 90-74, clinching the outright Big-5 title. As a result of the victory, Nova improves to 19-2 on the season, while Temple falls to 6-14.
The Wildcats got off to a blazing start, taking the lead from the opening tip and gradually extending it out to as much as 12 points, with a 25-13 lead with 8:08 left in the first half.
Villanova then went cold, and the Owls came storming back at a furious pace. The Wildcats were not able to score another point for the next six minutes and Temple took advantage. The Owls went on a 12-0 run to tie the game at 25 with 2:45 left in the first half and it looked as if Villanova might have been on upset alert.
The Cats were able to regain their composure though, and went up 36-31 into the half.
As opposed to Villanova’s last game against Georgetown, this battle versus Temple was very mistake free. The team’s combined for 14 turnovers as opposed to the 39 that the Hoyas and Wildcats committed on Monday.
The second half began almost exactly as the first. Nova came out on a 7-0 run to extend the lead to 12, but this time, the Wildcats never looked back. Temple was unable to get within more than nine points the rest of the game and Villanova coasted the rest of the way to an outright Big-5 title.
Once again, James Bell stole the show on the offensive side of the ball, pacing the team with 19 points. This was the fourth straight game in which Bell was the Wildcats’ leading scorer.
Bell did receive some serious scoring help form his friends, as five other Wildcats also recorded double digits, as Villanova hit the 90 point plateau for the sixth time this season. Leading the way for the rest of the pack was forward JayVaughn Pinkston, who finished the game with 13 points on 5-7 shooting. Daniel Ochefu, Darrun Hilliard and Dylan Ennis also finished in double figures for the Cats.
For Temple, it was the same story as the rest of the season, no offensive depth and no defense.
The Owls four players who average double-digits hit their numbers again, combining for 65 points, with Will Cummings leading the way with 24. But has has been the case the entire campaign, the rest of the team contributed for a meager nine points.
The Owls defense was also putrid once again. Temple had no answer for Villanova’s high-powered offense, giving up 54 points in the second half. The Owls thus ended up allowing at least 80 points for the tenth time this season.
After getting a much needed one game break from the torture that is the Big East, Villanova goes right back to conference play on Monday against the Xavier Musketeers. For the Owls, the road just only gets tougher as they must hit the road to face off, on Thursday, against a red-hot SMU Mustangs team that has been rejuvenated by Larry Brown.