Temple needed its top three scorers to be at the top of their game if the Owls had any hope of upsetting Villanova, just named the nation’s No. 1 basketball team this week.
As it turned out, only one out of three produced at the expected level Wednesday in an 87-67 loss to the Wildcats at the sold-out Liacouras Center.
Villanova jumped to a 46-29 halftime lead and the closest Temple would get in the second half was within 14 points.
But Quinton Rose, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, was the one for the Owls who played to his capability if not beyond. Rose scored a career-high 27 points, hitting 9 of 12 shots from the field and 5 of 6 from three-point range.
Shizz Alston, who entered the game tied for the team scoring lead with Rose (17.3 ppg.) and 6-10 senior Obi Enechionyia struggled all game, especially in the first half when they shot a combined 1 for 11.
Much of the credit goes to Villanova’s swarming defense, which seemed to contest virtually every shot.
““They are a really good basketball team overall and in particular their defense is outstanding,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said of Villanova. “They don’t let you run your stuff and you have to play basketball and get in the gaps and be strong with the basketball.”
Rose hit three straight three-pointers to begin his big offensive night. A streaky three-point shooter, Rose entered the game shooting 37.5 percent from beyond the arc.
“I made that first shot and was really confident after that,” said Rose, who scored 13 points in the first half.
Alston and Enechionyia played better in the second half, but Temple (6-3) isn’t deep enough to withstand an off night from two of its three leading scorers especially against the No. 1 team in the nation. Alston and Enechionyia combined for 13 points, nearly 17 off their scoring average entering the game.
On the bright side was Rose, who made a lasting impression on Villanova coach Jay Wright.
“He is a real talent,” Wright said. “… He has that killer instinct. I don’t know his numbers, but he will probably go for 30 to 35 [points] some nights because he is a killer and he has the talent.”
Temple got down by 20 points midway through the first half and then Rose led a charge that got the Owls within seven before Villanova got breathing room for good by going on a 9-0 run.
“In the first, we got punched in the forehead and he stepped up and said ‘Not so fast’ and he got us back really on his back,” Dunphy said of Rose. “… He is getting better each game.”
Rose had a simple explanation for his explosion. “I knew guys were struggling and I knew I had to pick it up offensively,” he said.
And while his team fell far short, Rose likely made an impression on the 21 NBA scouts in attendance.