Given that it was a Big Five encounter, Temple didn’t need any extra motivation to play Villanova, and the Wildcats didn’t need any extra motivation to get up for the Owls.
Still, the specter of‘’Nova’s new status as No.1 in the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Poll loomed heavily Wednesday night in the Liacouras Center.
Knocking off the top-ranked team in the land would have been a feather in the Owls’ cap – not to mention they would have stopped the Cats’ City Series winning streak at 21 games.
There’s always a crimp in every well-thought-out plan.
In this particular case, it was Villanova.
Preseason first-team All-America Jalen Brunson scored 22 of his career-high 31 points in the first half and redshirt freshman Omari Spellman had a career-high 27 points to lead Villanova (11-0) to a convincing 87-67 victory.
Combined, Brunson and Spellman were an efficient 22 of 30 on field goal attempts, including 10 for 17 on three-pointers.
Quinton Rose led Temple with 27 points.
Sooner or later, some team from Philadelphia will beat Villanova again, but that won’t be until at least next season.
In games this season against Penn, Saint Joseph’s, La Salle and now Temple, the Wildcats have outscored their city brethren by an aggregate of 348-250, an average margin of nearly 25 points.
Villanova has won 20 of the 22 games in their streak by at least 10 points.
None of that equates to Brotherly Love.
“I know this sounds simple, but we have had a run here of four or five years with really good players,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “We’ve had very, very good players who have remained in the program.
“You can lose that anytime if some guys leave early, and then you have a team of young guys. We’ve had outstanding players over a run.”
Whatever energy Temple fans brought into the Liacouras Center quickly dissipated on a cold December night when Brunson scored 12 in the first 8 minutes as Nova raced to a 20-5 lead.
The way the Wildcats are playing right now, it’s been hard for most teams to stay with them.
Temple (6-3) quickly found itself trying to fight back from 15-point deficit – not an impossible task but extremely difficult.
The Owls strung together a few decent runs, but Villanova always had an answer to stop things from getting uncomfortable.
“[Villanova] is a team that just goes on some killer runs,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “They did that obviously in the first half, which hurt us greatly.
“We had gotten it back to seven in the first half, and then they go on like a 10-0 run that just kind of spaces them again. You can’t make a mistake, and when you do they take full advantage of it.”