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Notebook: Observations from Villanova vs. Temple

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Villanova was more than excellent. And if they keep playing like this, well, it'll be a pretty simple conference schedule for the Wildcats.

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Radnor, Pa -- Plain and simple, Temple was bad, or as I called them all game "lemon booty" quite loudly from my press seat court side at the Villanova Pavilion.

They shot 28 percent from the field in the first half, they got open looks all game and couldn't sink them, and played some solid defense, you know, occasionally, but other than that Villanova, as they have been for most of the season, was virtually flawless. Josh Hart was a man-child, making a perfect 5-for-5 in the first half. Darrun Hilliard also shot the lights out, only missing one shot en route to 20 points.

It's not as much as how bad Temple was on Sunday afternoon, it was more to the tune of Villanova doing everything right combined with a chunk of second half fouls leading to the Wildcats shooting 81.5 percent from the stripe during the contest.

It was simple. The gameplay flowed beautifully. The defense was superb. And Villanova rose to Big 5 excellence for the second consecutive season. But what about Temple?

"It was a little bit of everything," senior guard Will Cummings said when asked what the problem was with their shooting. "Their defense, they were switching everything. We just didn't play hard enough."

On the Temple side of things, they praised Villanova for most of what they did. Cummings made it clear that Villanova was "a great team" and even their defense, interior-wise that shut down Jahlil Okafor from Duke a few weeks earlier, fumbled in the face of pressure. It even eventually got to freshman forward Obi Enechionyia, who was a perfect 5-for-5 to start the game.

"They just worked harder than us," Enechionyia said of Villanova and his own game "It was a mixture of [defensive] pressure and me not working as hard as I could have."

And from the coaching side of things, Fran Dunphy praised Villanova for their style of play.

"Their unselfish," head coach Fran Dunphy said of Villanova. "They have a pretty good inside-outside process. Ochefu is getting better down there...even isolated with our bigs, you are taking chances [on the interior]. When you left them open, they knocked them down. They play hard, they play together, and it doesn't look like anyone cares who scores [on Villanova]."

All about the Hart

For the majority of the 40-minute snore-fest that was Villanova v. Temple, the same consistency that was apparent in last season's non-conference schedule became clear for the Wildcats. Josh Hart emerged as a budding star for Villanova, becoming the first 20-point scorer for the club this season.

But even behind the glamor of the win and the scoring output, Hart was as jolly as ever post-game, giving props to his teammates before showing off his own skill set.

"I guess I'm in the holiday joy, it just happens to work at that time," Hart laughed when asked about his consistencies during the holiday season. "Our guys did a good job finding me and I took open shots. The ball just happened to go in...the shots happened to fall, it was a good day, I got lucky on some shots."

Hart finished with 20 points, seven rebounds, two steals and three assists next to Darrun Hilliard's 20 points as well. The 'Cats trounced Temple and is in the same position as last season heading toward's a non-conference clash with Syracuse.

And Wright admitted that the No. 7 Wildcats need more scoring once they get to the later parts of the season. Having balance is great, but Wright said that there needs to be one player that consistently steps up when the game is on the line. Every game won't be a 23-point blowout.

"It's nice when a couple guys get it going," Wright said. "I thought our team did a good job of when [Hart] got it going to find him...that was good for us to experience that as a team. Only other time [scoring like this happened individually] happened was at Illinois...we need to do that for conference play."

"Josh didn't just go take it," Wright continued. "He did it through the offense."

Villanova shot a whopping 52.9 percent from the field and 60 percent from deep, anomalies that won't look the same against a tough Orange defense that ranks 26th in adjusted defense according to KenPom.com. And the Wildcat regime is no slouch, a top-10 team in the Ken Pom rankings in adjusted offense and defense.

But it's always different with Syracuse, even on a down year. But as far as Hilliard is concerned, Villanova is still talking the talk and still taking numbers. He's as confident as he was in October when he was reminding reporters that he was the best player in the Big East.

"We know every time a team steps on the court they're tying to play harder than us," Hilliard said. "That's our challenge. We try to be the hardest playing team in America. That's what we have to mark ourselves on. Coach Wright always tells us that everyone is always coming to beat us. Not because we are ranked or Villanova, just because it's the next game. We just live that way and we try to play harder than them. Simple as that."

Cat Claws

  • Freshman Mikal Bridges is getting the same treatment that sophomore Daryl Reynolds got last season, he's on the court an hour early working on his game. By the end of his workout, he was tangibly exhausted. Outside of the fact that he could redshirt this season, though it is a little late for that, that could be another reason why he hasn't been on the floor for one minute in ten games this season.
  • NBA scouts from the Memphis Grizzlies, Philadelphia 76ers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers were at the Pavilion for Temple vs. Villanova
  • It got scrappy after a while in the Pavillion, Temple's Quentin DeCosey was on the floor jawing at Daniel Ochefu before being pulled away by a different Temple Owl. Dylan Ennis was shrugging off players in transition with his shoulders. If not for the score, it would appear to have the atmosphere of a Big 5 contest
  • It's becoming easier to go to smaller lineups for Jay Wright because of the rebounding and hustle plays of Hart and freshman Phil Booth Jr. Booth Jr. has shown a great knack for playing well defensively along the perimeter, resulting in many heads-up plays in the passing lanes. The Villanova defense accounted for seven steals and forced 11 Temple turnovers.
  • Hart missed his first shot at the six minute mark of the second half, but became the first Wildcat this season to score 20 or more points for Jay Wright's club.
  • Safe to say that Will Cummings and company were pretty bad. Until the last seven minutes of the contest, the Owls were shooting consistently under 35 percent from the field all game. Against the Wildcat's second tier players, the Owls regained some ground.
  • Ennis wore a Nelly band-aid over his left eye for the game, maybe that's why he went 3-for-9 for seven points. Not really, just looking for excuses.
  • Clear Lane foul for Daryl Reynolds in garbage minutes got his taken out of the game.
  • Wright said the team started finals at 8 am on Saturday and that the team will have intensive practices Thursday and Friday to adequately prepare for Syracuse next week