WRITTEN BY TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
Villanova freshman guard Jalen Brunson etched his name into Big Five history in front of a sold out Liacouras Center crowd on Wednesday night, as his career-high 25 points helped the No. 1 Wildcats defeat Temple convincingly, 83-67.
Brunson, who played only 23 total minutes, finished 9 of 11 from the field with four made three-pointers, as Villanova went on to win its sixth consecutive game.
“I came into this game with the same mentality as every other game,” said Brunson. “It felt great to quiet the crowd, but at the same time I was playing for my teammates, not the crowd.”
The first half opened with a stagnant performance from Temple on both ends of the floor, as the Wildcats took advantage of the Owls’ miscues, posting a double-digit lead at the seven minute mark. Temple guard Josh Brown did not start the game due to academic disciplinary actions, and was replaced in the starting lineup by freshman Levan Shaun Alston, Jr. Brown later checked into the game with eight minutes to go, and scored eight consecutive points in five minutes.
The first twenty minutes would close at a 35-23 score in favor of Villanova, with the Widlcats shooting 46.4 percent from the field (13-28) compared to Temple’s 37.9 percent (11-29). Brown was the Owls’ leading scorer with 10 first half points, while seniors Quenton DeCosey and Jaylen Bond added only two points and two fouls apiece.
Temple’s lackluster efforts returned during the early stages of the second half, as Villanova tacked on the first seven points off of two Owls’ turnovers, placing the lead up to 19, 42-23. From there, both teams would trade baskets until the 11-minute mark, as Owls’ guard Trey Lowe began to display his shooting range. Lowe would go on to tally five three-pointers on 12 total shots, leading Temple with 21 points on the night, a career-high for the freshman.
“This game definitely boosted my confidence,” said Lowe. “I just take it as every team we play is the number one team in the country, so I’m just playing my heart out each and every game.”
Lowe’s offensive spark was not enough production to overcome Villanova’s relentless pressure and consistency, as the Wildcats pulled away in the closing minutes with 16 total points off of Temple’s nine turnovers and 13 points on the fast break.
Villanova had four players score in double-digits, including Brunson, guards Phil Booth (12) and Kris Jenkins (15), and forward Daniel Ochefu, who finished one rebound shy of a double-double with 16 points.
Owls’ forward Obi Enechionyia finished with 15 points and nine rebounds in 38 minutes, while DeCosey and Bond combined for only 18 total points.
“I think this was probably the biggest game I’ve played in since I’ve been here,” said Enechionyia, who has earned double-digit points in six of the last seven games. “It was a tough battle. I think we both fought hard, but we didn’t give up. I’m definitely looking forward to next year.”
The loss snapped Temple’s five-game winning streak, and dropped their overall record to 16-9 on the season. The Owls will return to American Athletic Conference play on the road against Houston this Sunday, looking to maintain first place in the conference with a record of 10-3.