In mid-February the city saw a game at the Liacouras Center that would decide the Big Five championship. Should Villanova win, they win it outright. Should Temple win, they share the crown. The Owls lead 30 – 26 at halftime, but the Wildcats got their three-point shots to fall hitting 13 of 21 from beyond the arc in the latter 20 minutes. Villanova won their 27th Big Five Championship with a 76 – 56 win. A 20 – 2 second half run sealed the victory for the visitors from the Main Line.
The Wildcats won the Big Five in consecutive seasons from 2013-14 through 2017-18. In the 2018-19 campaign the University of Pennsylvania won the city series.
Let’s look back at a Sunday afternoon in mid-February.
PHILADELPHIA, PA. 2/16/2020 – The Temple Owls and the Villanova Wildcats on a Sunday in Philadelphia on display for a national audience. And the Big Five tile on the line. Temple wins they share the crown. Villanova wins they get it outright.
Hot three-point shooting especially in the second half, and a solid defensive effort gave # 15 Villanova their 27th Big Five title with a 76 – 56 win over Temple at the Liacouras Center.
“Great second half as we just made shots,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “We haven’t done that a lot, so when that happens any team is tough to beat. I was proud of our defensive effort in the second half and that led to making shots, and together that was the difference.”
Nova guard Collin Gillespie led the way for the Wildcats as he made 7 three-point shots, a career-high, on the way to 29 points, one-point shy of his collegiate best. Gillespie converted 11 of 19 from the floor and made 7 of 11 from beyond the arc, and handed out 5 assists.
“It was catch and shoot when I had the opportunities,” Gillespie said. “Credit to my teammates for finding me early on and I was just confident to shoot.”
Villanova started the game with Gillespie making his first two shots, both three-pointers, then hit four in a row. But Temple had a 30 – 26 lead at halftime behind 14 first half points by Quinton Rose. It looked like the makings of a Big Five classic.
In the second half the Wildcats made 13 of 21 shots from three-point land as six of the first seven baskets were from beyond the arc as Jermaine Samuels, who scored 13 points, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who contributed 10 points, and Justin Moore found the range. The shooting keyed a 20 – 2 run that gave control of the game to the Cats.
“They were making shots right there in front of them,” said Temple Coach Aaron Mckie. “Some of our miscues, they made us pay for them, and they were shooting with guys in their face. Our guys knew the game plan coming in was get them off the three-point line. That’s their calling card.”
Later in the half Gillespie went on a streak of three straight from distance followed by threes from Moore and Saddiq Bey that put the Wildcats ahead 71 – 49.
“We’re always searching for threes,” Wright said. “Certain teams take that away and that opens up
Over the game Villanova made 27 of 59 field goal attempts (45.8%), in the latter twenty minutes they were 18 of 32 (56.3%).
“We understand coming into the game what we have to do to win games,” said McKie. “We have to be perfect on the defensive side. I thought we were good in the first half and it wasn’t there in the second half.”
Meanwhile the Owls went cold making only on three-pointer and went 9 of 27 from the floor. Rose led Temple with 22 points, his third straight twenty-point game. Nate Pierre Louis recorded his fourth double-double of the season getting 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Overall, Nova was 17 of 36 from deep, one-shy of their season best 18 made threes against Ohio U. The Cherry and White converted 2 of 16 from distance.
Temple falls to 13 – 12 for the season and finish at 2 – 2 in the city series. They will go back to American action as Connecticut visits on Thursday. The Owls will have to look past not getting the championship they played for in this game.
Villanova goes to 19 – 6 and travels to Chicago to play DePaul on Wednesday. The Wildcats ran the table in city play. There is more work to do in the Big East. They plan to celebrate winning the city after the season.
“At the end of the year we can look back and be very proud of this,” said Wright.
Written By: Glenn Papazian