Brunson, top-ranked Villanova cruises past Temple Hoops, 87-67

WRITTEN BY: TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin

PHILADELPHIA – When Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz exited last Sunday’s game with what turned out be a season-ending knee injury, Villanova basketball head coach Jay Wright was watching on television, realizing that his top-ranked team in the nation wasn’t going to receive much space on the back pages the following day.

Wright called it “a classic.” Of course, the city loves its basketball. But in Philadelphia, the Eagles are religion.

However, Wright’s Wildcats took back the spotlight on Wednesday night, as they undoubtedly preformed like a bona fide No. 1.

With a combined 58 points from both guard Jalen Brunson and forward Omari Spellman, Villanova routed Temple, 87-67, before a sellout crowd at the Liacouras Center.

Brunson, who shot 11-of-16 from the floor with six made three-pointers, finished with a career-high 31 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Spellman also scored a career-high 27 points with eight boards.

It was Villanova’s (11-0) fifth straight win over the Owls (6-3), who simply couldn’t keep up.

“A very good win for us tonight against an outstanding team in a really tough environment,” said Wright, whose team shot 60-percent from the floor.

IT GOT LATE EARLY FOR TEMPLE

Villanova wasted no time on offense in the first half. After establishing a quick 7-0 lead, Brunson’s jump shot helped extend the score, and before the midway point, the Wildcats were already ahead, 25-5. Brunson made 22 of his 31 total points in the first, and Wright knew he was capable of going off.

“It was incredible. [Jalen] can do that. I mean, that’s not any surprise to us. He can do that any night,” Wright said. “I knew he was going to be more aggressive and [Temple] did a really good job taking away our perimeter guys. So, it forced somebody to go create shots.”

In the latter part of the half, however, Temple showed some signs of life. Sophomore guard Quinton Rose made three consecutive shots from behind the arc, and with 6:45 left before halftime, the Owls trimmed their deficit to seven. But, Villanova found a groove late, and went to the locker room with a 17-point lead.

In the second half, they kept that double-digit lead for all 20 minutes.

ROSE WAS THE OWLS’ SILVER LINING

Rose – who Wright called a “real talent” – finished with 13 points in the first half, and by the final buzzer, he had a career-high 27.

“It was really tough to come back,” Rose said. “We put together a run and brought it back within seven, but then they made shots and went back up. Offensively, we didn’t really get into any offense. And when we did, it wasn’t successful.”

Temple head coach Fran Dunphy also admitted that the first half struggles were detrimental.

“They’re a team that goes on some just killer runs, and they obviously did that in the first half, which hurt us greatly,” Dunphy said of Villanova. “Those runs are just devastating… They are really a good basketball team overall, but in particular, their defense is just outstanding. They don’t let you run your stuff.”

Although redshirt guard Josh Brown scored a productive 12 points in 33 minutes, Temple’s senior forward Obi Enechionyia and junior guard Shizz Alston, Jr. were extremely cold on offense. Both combined for 13 points on five made buckets.

OTHER NOTES, STATS

-Villanova made 33-of-55 buckets (60-percent), and also made 13 three-pointers.

-Temple shot 26-of-55 (47-percent), and made seven threes.

-The Wildcats’ stifling defense limited the Owls to just eight total assists, and in the rebounding battle, Villanova won, 29-27.

-Wildcats’ guard Donte DiVincenzo scored 12 points and recorded four assists.

-Both teams committed 11 turnovers.

-The paid attendance was 10,206 – a sellout.

WHAT’S NEXT

Temple will wrap up a four-game home stand on Saturday afternoon against Drexel (5-5) with tipoff scheduled for 5 p.m.

If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at thanslin@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.