VILLANOVA, PA. 12/13/2016 – The #1 Villanova Wildcats captured their fourth consecutive Big Five Championship behind a second half surge led by guard Josh Hart who scored 18 of his game-high 26 points in the latter half to lead Villanova to a 78 – 57 victory over the Temple Owls. This was the 18th straight city series win for the Wildcats. The Villanova senior class did not lose a Big Five game.
“It’s and honor and definitely humbling,” said senior guard Josh Hart about the accomplishment. “We know the Big Five, the tradition, they have great teams every year. It’s something down the line well look back and say it was pretty cool.”
“Jay has done a great job of putting this together and this is a special group,” Temple Coach Fran Dunphy said about Villanova and this incredible run of city success. “They will continue to be good. It’s up to us to be a better basketball program where we will all try to get to.”
Hart made 10 of 19 field goal attempts and was 3 of 8 from beyond the arc. After intermission the senior guard lit it up for 18 points making 7 of 11 and 3 of 6 from distance. Early in the second half Hart scored 16 of the first 21 points for the Cats to extend the lead to 55 – 33 with just under 12 minutes to go.
Early it took awhile for the offenses to settle into the game. The score was tied at 6 five minutes into the contest after Owls forward Daniel Dingle converted a three-pointer. Temple would not score again for nearly 6 minutes and turned the ball over 5 times in that span. Yet Villanova could not pull away. It was a situation where both teams were playing outstanding defense that negated the scoring.
Finally, the Wildcats got going ending the half on a 9 – 3 run to lead 29 – 16 at halftime. Hart keyed the run scoring 6 of the points.
“In the first half their defense was outstanding, our defense was outstanding,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “We made a couple of plays that broke it open. You saw two outstanding defenses in the first half. The end of that first half was big and we did it off our defense.”
Nova made 34.6% from the floor in the half while the Cherry and White went 6 of 24 (25%). Most telling was the Temple would commit 12 turnovers in the stanza compared to 4 for Villanova. In short the Owls did not protect the ball nor did they shoot it well.
The second half Villanova returned to form shooting 57.1% (16 of 28) while Temple did not, finishing the game making 22 of 60 from the floor (36.7%), and committed 18 turnovers.
“I think they did a great job rotating and,” said Dingle. “We thought we could beat them off the bounce. We had a lot of open shot but didn’t make them. They did a great job defensively.”
Junior guard Jalen Brunson scored 13 points for Nova and handed out a game-high 6 assists which equaled his career-best. Senior forward Kris Jenkins and sophomore Eric Paschall each scored 12 points and took down 6 rebounds. Hart added 3 assists, 3 steals, and had no turnovers.
Sophomore guard Shizz Alston, Jr. led the Cherry and White with 12 points. Dingle had 11 points. Leading scorer Obi Enechionyia was limited to 8 points, 10 under his average and his lowest point output of the year.
The Wildcats (11 – 0, 4 – 0 Big Five) will return to the floor on December 21 hosting American U. at the Pavilion.
“There is no time to celebrate, it’s time to get ready for the next game which is American,” Hart said.
The Owls (7 – 4, 3 – 1 Big Five) will get back at it on Saturday hosting NJIT at the Liacouris Center.
Written By: Glenn Papazian