Written by: Declan Landis
Photo by: Brian Mermelstein
Temple upset No. 16 Villanova 68-64 in the Liacouras Center led by 22 points from Damian Dunn and a double-double from sophomore forward Jamille Reynolds.
This was Temple’s first victory against their Big 5 rivals since 2012 and their first win of the young season as well.
The game, which was back-and-forth until the end, saw Damian Dunn tie the game at 64 with two free throws with 45 seconds left before graduate Caleb Daniels missed the potential go-ahead jumper for Villanova and Dunn hit another two free throws to give the Owls the 66-64 lead with 1.2 seconds left.
Sophomore Zach Hicks intercepted a full-court pass from Villanova senior Chris Arcidiacono and iced the game.
“They’re one of the gold standard programs in college basketball,” Temple head coach Aaron McKie said. “Having Damian out there, having Khalif, Zach, and Jamille Reynolds who was outstanding, they helped our cause.”
One of the key players for the Owls tonight was Reynolds. His 14 points were important for the offense because it opened up the perimeter for players like Dunn, but his 12 rebounds were equally as important, as he was able to create second-chance opportunities that the Owls haven’t been able to create in years. He limited redshirt junior forward Eric Dixon to 18 points and five rebounds, diminishing his impact on the game.
“I took it personally,” Reynolds said about his matchup against Dixon. “I felt like he wasn’t better than me, and my mindset was to go out there and kill him and kill him and kill him.”
Damian Dunn showed his appreciation for Reynolds postgame, adding that Reynolds opens the floor for the whole team when he gets going.
“We firmly believe he’s going to score 10 times out of 10 when he gets the ball in the lane,” Dunn said. “And once he gets going, that’s when all the other guys start to creep in. He’s a big piece for us.”
Dunn had a game-high 22 points and shot an efficient 8-14 from the field. He was the go-to man down the stretch, taking the ball in his hands and earning the game-tying and game-winning foul shots. He remained perfect from the free throw line on the season, going 4-4 tonight and now 22-22 on the season.
Khalif Battle had a good game as well, scoring 21 in 30 minutes off the bench and providing a much-needed spark throughout the game.
“I worked my butt off to get to these moments,” Battle said. “Usually when teams lose games when they’re not supposed to, it’s all about the response. I think we responded the right way.”
The Liacouras Center was rocking throughout the game, and the fans stormed the court not once but twice in celebration of the upset victory. According to McKie, the fans were a massive part of the win.
“It’s great for the player to see that college energy,” McKie said. “I want to thank the fans because they were outstanding. The guys worked off that energy, and it was fun to see.”
Looking ahead, the Owls play host to Vanderbilt Tuesday at 7 at the Liacouras Center looking to capitalize off the big win. Dunn said the team’s focus needs to shift to take care of business now.
“I think that win was big for us,” Dunn said. “We’re going to use the momentum we got from this win and keep moving forward. We are going to keep protecting home court, collecting wins, and getting better together. I think we will be fine.”