Led by stud freshman point guard Jalen Brunson, Jay Wright's Villanova Wildcats walked into the Liacouras Center on the campus of Temple University and put yet another notch in their belt, downing the Owls 83-67.
Brunson was far-and-away the star of the night for the 'Cats. The freshman, who nearly signed for Temple, led the Wildcats with a career high -- points and was able to do so in a variety of ways. Whether it was getting to the bucket or pulling up from deep, the crafty guard was able to score seemingly at will despite the Temple defense stepping up the intensity in the second half.
The Wildcats were balanced as always on offense, putting four players into double figures. Neither Josh Hart or Ryan Arcidiacono, the 'Cats two leading and scorers on the year, were a part of that quartet that led the Wildcats to the victory and their fourth consecutive outright Big 5 title.
Temple struggled offensively for much of contest, including their two leading scorers Quenton DeCosey and Jaylen Bond. DeCosey finished just in double figures with 10 while Bond scored eight, only two of which came in the first half. While the Owls were able to close the gap from as large as 23 down to 11, they couldn't complete the comeback and timely buckets from Brunson and Villanova senior Daniel Ochefu helped put the game to bed.
The Wildcats will now head back to The Pavilion on Saturday where they'll take on Roosevelt Jones and the Butler Bulldogs, while the Owls will look to rebound on Sunday when they head to Houston to take on the Cougars.
1. Jalen Brunson is a first round pick and you can't convince me otherwise. Tonight, in a game where he was thrust into the spotlight, the freshman showed everything that made him one of the most highly coveted recruits in the country. Brunson is the best NBA talent to come out of Villanova since NBA All-Star Kyle Lowry was manning the point for Jay Wright's team and the two have many similarities. Like Lowry, Brunson carries a bit more heft than your average point guard despite being a bit undersized in regards to height, and similarly the two are above average shooters from deep. If Brunson is allowed to sit and learn behind an experience NBA point, I expect him to have a long and lucrative career in the association.
2. Villanova's team defense will be what decides their fate come March. The 'Cats defend the 3-point line as well as any team in the country and get back really quickly and efficiently in transition. If Wright's team can pair that defense with effective 3-point shooting of their own, they can take down just about any team in the country.
3. Fran Dunphy is one of the better X's and O's coaches in the country, but he needs to recruit the Philadelphia area better if he wants to have consistent success. The Philadelphia high school scene is one of the best in the country and coaches from around country, including right down the road at Villanova and Penn State, have come in in recent and cleaned up when it comes to recruiting. Despite landing crafty guard Levan Alston, Dunphy has seen the Owls miss out on studs such as Ja'Quan Newton, Mike Watkins, Shep Garner and Lamar Stevens in recent years. If Dunph wants to get Temple back to where they feel they should be each year, he's got to do a better job getting these kids to Broad Street and Cecil B. Moore.