With the Big 5 title on the line it was Jalen Brunson, the son of a former Temple standout Rick Brunson, that clinched the 83-67 victory for the Wildcats. The freshman standout finished with a career high 25 points. Phil Booth also stepped up his game on both ends of the court, scoring 12 points and adding 5 rebounds. Daniel Ochefu added 16 points and 9 rebounds to give Villanova their 3rd consecutive Big 5 Championship.
Early on, it was clear that Nova's first option would be to get to the paint, ideally through Daniel Ochefu. Despite a few ill-advised contested shots, they did just that. Much of the offense was created by an outstanding defensive effort, lead by the quick hands of Ryan Arcidiacono who had two quick steals in the first 5 minutes.
However, Temple wasn't going to let the nation's #1 team and cross-town rival push them around in their own house as they kept the game close, tying the game at 7 early on. From there it would be a back and forth affair highlighted by the aggressive and athletic play of both team's back-courts. Despite some cold shooting for the Owls, they were kept in the game by hitting the boards hard and getting second chance points. But Phil Booth went on a quick surge scoring 3 straight baskets, and Josh Hart went coast-to-coast for an athletic finish at the rim to give Villanova its biggest lead of the game at 16-9 with 11:04 left in the first.
Villanova had trouble from distance in the first half, hitting just one of their first eight attempts from behind the arc. That slump allowed Temple to inching their way back into the game. The Owl's Obi Enechionyia lead the team early scoring 7 of the team's first 13 points, and helped close the gap to just 5 points. But Villanova's defensive pressure started to get to Temple late in the first, forcing two quick turnovers on bad passes. Jalen Brunson made them pay off both occasions hitting a three and a deep two. Another three from Arcidiacono and suddenly Villanova was way out in front, up 28-15 with 6:03 to play in the half.
Villanova maintained their lead for the rest of the second half. Arcidiacono was able to break Temple's trap to find Kris Jenkins for a monster slam and the 'Cats hit their last 3 consecutive 3's. While Temple lead in offensive rebounds, they also turned the ball over 6 times in the first half compared to Villanova's 2. To make matters worse, both of the Owl's leading scorers, Jaylen Bond and Quenton DeCosey, picked up their second fouls of the game before heading to the locker-room. Villanova lead at the half 35-23, with Brunson and Booth each scoring 8 points.
Villanova kept their foot on the gas in the second half with aggressive defense and penetrating offense. Arcidiacono continued to create turnovers on defense while Brunson and Jenkins continued to convert on the other end of the court. Villanova started the second half on a 7-0 run, forcing Temple to call a timeout in the first 3 minutes. While the Owls were able to get a basket out of that timeout, poor foul shooting would keep them from putting any kind of dent in the now 19 point Wildcat lead.
Kris Jenkins shot fake continued to baffle his defenders as he pushed the Villanova lead up to 20 inside the 15 minute mark. But Temple's press finally got to the Wildcats as they were able to isolate Darryl Reynolds on the sideline, creating a turnover and easy dunk for the Owls. But that success didn't last long as Phil Booth easily broke the pressure on the next possession, and Brunson finished the possession with an open three from the top of the arc. Brunson then forced a charge on the next possession, followed by yet another three to push his point total to 16 with 13 minutes to play.
Temple went into full court press mode at this point, trying anything they could to curtail the Villanova attack. But much more often than not the Wildcats were just too quick for the Owls, breaking the press seemingly with ease. Brunson's big second half continued as he knocked down three's with ease. Temple continued to struggle on both ends of the court, giving up unnecessary fouls on defense and missing free throws on offense. Villanova also started winning the battle on the boards with Phil Booth grabbing 3 consecutive offensive rebounds on one possession.
With a large lead in hand, Villanova started to settle for a few ill-advised shots. Temple quickly jumped on the opportunity, scoring two quick buckets and cutting the Wildcat lead to 15 with 7:33 to play. Head Coach Jay Wright quickly called a timeout to set his team straight and be sure they finished out what they started. But Temple kept the momentum going, hitting another 3 to bring the Nova lead down to 12. But Brunson was able to stave off the surging Owls, drawing a foul and hitting both free throws.
On the other end, Josh Hart and the Wildcats went uncharacteristically cold, going more than 5 minutes without making a field goal. Luckily, solid free throw shooting kept them in it before Phil Booth was able to leak out on a fast break for an easy dunk. The teams continued to trade possessions and play tough defense, but the clock was on Nova's side as the game hit the 3:50 mark with Nova leading 71-57.
Temple refused to go away, pulling within 11 points with 2:30 to go. But every time they seemed like they could get the game to single digits, Villanova had an answer. Villanova continued its excellent night from the charity stripe, and Ochefu's back to back dunks under the one minute mark sealed the game for the country's number one team.