Using key help from the reserves and a second-half surge from forward AJ Brodeur, Penn earned at least a share of its first Big 5 title since 2002.
With their bench outscoring Temple’s reserves, 29-7 and Brodeur scoring 12 of his 16 points in the second half, the Quakers earned a 77-70 win over Temple on Saturday night at the Liacouras Center.
Penn, which had lost its previous 11 games to Temple, is 11-6 overall, 3-0 in the Big 5. The Quakers can win the Big 5 outright with a victory on Saturday against St. Joseph’s. A loss to the Hawks would make Penn and Villanova co-champs.
Temple (14-4, 2-2 Big 5) saw its four-game winning streak snapped. An Owls win would have clinched a share of the Big 5 title.
Winning at least a share of the Big 5 title means a big deal to the Quakers, who also received 15 points and a strong defensive game from Devon Goodman.
“When you talk of Big 5 history, it seems Penn’s name hasn’t been brought up that much, unless when talking about which teams Villanova beat to win the title,” Brodeur said. “Finally being able to be in that spot and at least get a share of it is really special to our program, and we are happy to bring it back to Penn.”
Center Ernest Aflakpui led Temple with a career highs of 21 points and 15 rebounds.
“Most of the time, I am defensive-minded, but I got a chance, and Shizz kept finding me, and I was aggressive,” said Aflakpui, who shot 9-for-13 from the field.
Aflakpui was referring to teammate Shizz Alston, who had a rough shooting night (5-for-18) but delivered six assists while scoring 14 points.
Temple, which trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half, cut the lead to 71-66 on Nate Pierre-Louis’ drive, but Penn then delivered the final blow on the next possession when Jake Silpe hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to extend the lead to 74-66 with just 39 seconds left. Silpe scored nine points off the bench, hitting all three of his three-point attempts, all after halftime.
Penn held a 35-25 advantage at intermission. Chiefly responsible was an unlikely source, junior forward Jakub “Kuba” Mijakowski. The 6-foot-7 Mijakowski, who hails from Warsaw, Poland, entered the game with 28 career points. He had half that total by halftime. Mijakowski hit all four of his field goal attempts in the first half, all from three-point territory, and both foul shots in a 14-point first-half performance.
“I felt great out there,” Mijakowski said. “The first shot went in, the second shot went in, and I kept shooting.”
Fellow reserve Jarrod Simmons, a 6-8 sophomore, contributed six points off the bench, after entering the game averaging 2.2.
Temple was hurt by its inability to get to the foul line. The Owls, who entered the game leading the American Athletic Conference in free throw percentage (.738) and were averaging 19.1 free throws per game, attempted only nine free throws, making seven.
Temple also attempted only 11 three-pointers (making three). Quakers coach Steve Donahue said his team had plenty of motivation to earn at least a share of the Big 5 title.
"I don’t necessarily feel the four [other Big 5 teams] are disrespecting our guys, but I don’t know if they feel threatened by Penn basketball in the Big 5,” Donahue said. “So, it is kind of something as competitors that really drives our guys.”