Jay Wright called it "a tough win in a tough environment." From the second half on, it looked a little easier than he credited.
James Bell used two quick 3's to jump out to an early lead, and Temple had two separate 4+ minute scoreless streaks to aid the Wildcats in a 90-74 win. The Wildcats went a perfect 4-0 in Big 5 play this season.
Temple was 3 for their first 13 from the field, missing easy layups in the paint. This cleared the path for Villanova to go to an eventual 17-8 lead. At the 8:40 mark, Daniel Ochefu made an emphatic dunk to extend the lead to 25-13. From their, Villanova took on the role of Temple and went scoreless. For over 6 minutes, the Wildcats did not score a single point. Will Cummings lead the way with 5 as Temple went on a 12-0 run to tie the game. However, the 'Cats never trailed in half number 1. Kris Jenkins made a 3 at the 1:32 mark, and Ryan Arcidiacono made 2 more-one with 4 seconds left- to take a 36-31 lead at half.
Will Cummings and Anthony Lee had the first 12 points for Temple, both scoring double digits in the first half. No Villanovan scored above 6 points in the first half, displaying the teamwork in the first half.
Villanova lead the way big with the halftime stats. Villanova dominated FG%, shooting an efficient 48.4% to Temple's 27.8%. Temple outrebounded the Wildcats; they controlled offensive rebounds 11-4. Free throws were also a big key, as Temple hit 10-12 and Villanova goes 0-2. For this reason, Temple stayed so close with a sub-30% FG%.
Wright noted that "they pounded us on the offensive glass" however this was due in large part to Temple's plentiful missed layups in which the paint was nearly empty. This caused the shooter to easily capture his own missed shot. However, he believes that the free throw differential was because of the "fouls coming after those offensive rebounds." So, in all, the missed shots were still converted into offensive opportunities, thus only trailing by 5 at the half.
The second half, however, was all Villanova, as the three attempts went down and the drives to the basket gave them the tempo. You could credit Arch's 3 before the half to be a momentum stealer. Darrun Hilliard drew a foul on Quenton DeCosey 14 seconds into the half, able to hit both free throws for the first made ones of the evening. The next two possessions were threes by Hilliard and Bell, respectively, which gave the Wildcats a 9 point lead.
Arch picked up fouls number 2 and 3 within 12 seconds of each other, which continued the foul troubles for Nova on the day. Hilliard, Bell, JayVaughn Pinkston and Josh Hart all had 2 fouls at the half, and Daniel Ochefu and Arcidiacono would end the day with 4 a piece. No Villanova player fouled out, however.
The Villanova free throw shooting once again saved the day, as the team went 16-19 in the second half. This again is credited to the drives to the hoop by Pinkston and Hilliard, many of which were and-ones.
At the 6:06 mark, Temple forward and leading rebounder Anthony Lee picked up his 5th foul. He had 6 offensive rebounds on the day, and 10 overall. He finished with 12 points on 4-13.
Daniel Ochefu again played stellar, going 5-6 from the floor to finish with 11 points. He had 7 rebounds, 3 offensive, and 3 blocks. His defense limited the Owls' backcourt to 19 points. Starter DeCosey, Dalton Pepper and Cummings scored a combined 53 points, led by Cummings' 24. Cummings picked up his 4th foul at the 11:13 mark, and received a laceration on his upper lip. He was forced to leave the game for a few minutes which meant Temple was unable to cut into the Nova 19-point lead for 4 plus minutes.
Wright applauded Ochefu's recent play and practice. "He works very hard. He really does. As a coach, you're thrilled to be asked that question so that you can talk about it, because he's earned it. He does all the little things for us. He passes well, blocks shots, but he's worked hard on his offense." Wright also noted how his improved offensive efficiency has led to better spreading of the ball. "When [Temple] went zone, he was able to kick it out. He got the ball in the zone and found the guy on the perimeter."
Daniel credits his recent success to those around him. "I just respond to my coaches' and players' confidence in me, in games and in practice. Going out there and playing for them- that's the biggest thing for me." He also spoke about what Jay said in practice. "Coach told me if I see an opportunity, to take it." This no doubt shows the confidence that his head coach has in him, and his recent play has shown how positively he has responded. In the last 6 games, he is 23-27 from the floor.
Hurting the Owls efforts even more, Temple had another scoring drought from 16:15-11:22, which all but put the game away for Nova. Combine that with the repeated missed shots in the paint, and Temple was just having "one of those days."
While a Big 5 game served as a break from tough Big East play for the 'Cats, senior James Bell says there is no difference mind set going in. "We approach them the same way we approach Big East games. We prepare hard, and we focus on what we do."
To mirror that, Wright interestingly noted that the Big 5 Title does not rank in any way for him. "We just don't set any goals. We just want to go out there and be the best team we could be." However, he notes that in a postseason meeting he has with his coaches, he separates the season into 4 parts- Big East play, Big 5 play, preseason and Big East postseason. Hence, the Big 5 plays some major role in his mind. He even noted "we take pride in this. I wish we put banners for this."
Darryl Reynolds logged a minute of play as well, signifying a big Wildcat win in the Big 5.
The 'Cats finally return home on Monday to take on the Xavier Musketeers, who were shocked in Cincinnati today by losing one to the Seton Hall Pirates. The game is at 7:00pm and will air on Fox Sports 1.
Jay Wright summed up the Big 5 title perfectly. "To win it, it's just awesome. It's awesome."