Jalen Brunson sure does love the Liacouras Center.
After dropping 25 points the last time the Wildcats played in the Liacouras Center—when he was just a freshman—he almost beat that mark in the first half as the No. 1 Villanova Wildcats defeated Big 5 rival Temple Owls, 87-67.
Villanova has now won 22 straight Big 5 games, with their last loss coming Dec. 5, 2012 against Temple.
Villanova started the game on a quick 7-0 run featuring a downright filthy spin-move layup and a transition three-pointer from Brunson. He quickly took control of the game, dropping 15 points in just 10 minutes of action and gave Nova a 28-8 lead midway through the first half.
Temple sophomore Quinton Rose lead the charge for the Owls with their own 13-0 run to bring the game within 7, before two back to back three-pointers from Omari Spellman and Brunson.
The Owls tried to keep up with the Wildcats in the remaining minutes of the half, but Brunson kept his hot shooting and gave Nova a 46-29 lead at the half. Brunson finished with 22 points (including 5 three-pointers) and 4 assists, and Spellman was the only other Nova player in double-digits with 10 points and 3 rebounds.
Mikal Bridges had a relatively quiet first half with only 5 points, and Phil Booth and Eric Paschall were both held scoreless. Nova shot 58.6% from the field in the first, including making half of their shots from behind the arc (9-18). Temple sophomore Rose lead the Owls with 13 points.
If the first half was the Brunson show, the second half was the Spellman show. Omari added 17 points in the second half to bring his game total to 27 points, a career high. Not to be outdone, Brunson added 9 points (all coming in the last 4 minutes of the game) and finished with a career high 31 points. He added 6 rebounds and 5 assists to his final stat-line. Spellman and Brunson combined for 58 points, coming pretty darn close to Temple’s final total of 67 points.
Other than Donte DiVincenzo (12 points, 4 assists) the rest of the Wildcats had a relatively quiet night, with Bridges coming in with 7 points, and Eric Paschall with 6 points. Booth was reportedly fighting off an illness and didn’t exactly have his best night, finishing with only 2 points, both free-throws. The Wildcats finished the night shooting an exceptional 60% from the field.
Temple star Quinton Rose finished with 27 points, but Nova held Shizz Alston Jr. (17.3 ppg) to just 10 points on 4-12 shooting. The Wildcats forced 11 turnovers in the game, but committed 11 of their own.
Spellman had his best game of the season by far, nailing pull-up jumpers from 15 feet out, making tough layups, and draining 4 three-pointers. This is exactly the kind of talent that Jay Wright was hoping the freshman could bring to the table this season after sitting out last season due to ineligibility (#FreeOmari). The Wildcats desperately needed someone to compliment Paschall down low, and Spellman is quickly developing into the star player fans hoped for.
Brunson further strengthened his case as the best point-guard in the country, showing he is capable of doing everything on the court. Need a nifty cross-over spin-move layup? He can do that. Transition three-pointer? Got it. Take over the game and completely control the tempo on offense? Done. He’s one of the smartest players in the country, constantly looking for the open shot and analyzing the defense to see where he can expose them and come away with points. Brunson continues to impress with each passing game and his ability to control the offense is unmatched in college basketball.
The Wildcats have a week off for finals (still need someone to take my comparative politics final for me) before returning to action on December 22nd to take on Hofstra in Uniondale, NY. Tip-off is set for 8:30 p.m.