PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — The maroon-clad crowd that had stood for hours behind a metal fence that wound around the Liacouras Center held out a collective hope that they would see something special on Wednesday night: Maybe their Temple Owls could do it again, as they did earlier this season against visiting SMU. Maybe they could beat the best college basketball team in the country right now.
However, No. 1 Villanova quelled any chance of another ranked team being knocked out with an anvil thud, thumping Temple, 83-67, in clash of Big 5 teams. It was the Wildcats' sixth-straight victory, and it came before a Liacouras Center record crowd of 10,472.
Villanova improved to 23-3 and has won 15 of its last 16 games.
Temple, which holds first place in the American Athletic Conference, saw its season-high five-game winning streak toppled, falling to 16-9.
Villanova received a game-high 25 points from freshman guard Jalen Brunson, the son for former Temple star Rick Brunson, on 9-for-11 shooting, including 4-for-5 from three-point range. Senior center Daniel Ochefu scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds, junior forward Kris Jenkins added 15 points, sophomore guard Phil Booth chipped in with 12 points for the Wildcats.
Temple was paced by freshman guard Trey Lowe's team-high 21 points. Sophomore forward Obi Enechionyia added 15 points and junior guard Josh Brown scored 11 points, 10 of which came in the first half.
"Booth and Jalen really got it going, and I think Jalen took the plays that came to him, it wasn't anything different than what he normally does, he got a lot of opportunities tonight," Wildcats' coach Jay Wright said. "A Big 5 game on the road is as tough as any conference game and we wanted to play this game near the end of the year to get us ready for the postseason. It really did. It was a great crowd and they weren't going to go away. We have plenty of room for improvement and taking care of the basketball is one of them."
Temple couldn't deal with Villanova's swarming defenses. The Wildcats, who entered the game ranked eighth in the nation in scoring defense, limiting opponents to an average of 61 points a game, forced Temple to make mistakes. The Owls rushed their shots and were hesitant when passing the ball.
Brunson tormented Temple all night. His 3-pointer with 11:29 to play gave Villanova a 59-37 lead. Then, junior forward Darryl Reynolds added a pair of free throws with 10:10 remaining, which gave the Wildcats their largest edge of the game at 63-40.
"I went into this game with the same mentality as I do every other game," Brunson said. "I just had to make the right plays at the right time."
Temple was never able to get the margin down to single digits after halftime.
Villanova went into halftime leading 35-23 thanks to its stellar defense, which generated eight points off of six turnovers. The teams traded leads four times in the first 6:30, but it was apparent Temple was having trouble in its half-court sets, with the Wildcats doubling down each time the Owls tried to get the ball inside.
With 2:28 left in the half, Jenkins canned two free throws that gave Villanova its largest lead of the half, 35-21.
For the game, Temple made 25 of 61 from the floor (41%), but the Owls three-point shooting, such an important part of their game, wasn't helpful at all. Temple made eight of 24 (33.3%) from beyond arc.
"Jalen hit some tough shots and Villanova plays hard at both ends of the floor," Enechionyia said. "We need to attack when our shots aren't going in. It happens. You have to find another way to win and we didn't."
Temple's last lead was 9-8 with 14:02 remaining in the half, on senior guard Quenton DeCosey's jumper. From that point on, Villanova turned up the defensive intensity and Temple struggled, getting outscored 27-15 the rest of the half.
The Owls had problems from three-point range making just one of 10, while Villanova hit 13 of 28 from the floor and 4 of 11 from beyond the arc.
Brown led all scorers at halftime with 10 points, while Villanova received balanced scoring, getting eight points each from Brunson and Booth on a combined 6-for-9 shooting. Temple went to the line just once in the half, while Villanova was 5-for-7.
"There was nothing cheap about any basket that (Brunson) got," Owls' coach Fran Dunphy said. "He stepped up and every one of his nine baskets was timely, but that's what the great ones do. We're not the most offensively efficient group. We had opportunities at the rim that we didn't finish. I think Villanova has perfect rotations. They have eight guys that they feel really good about. A guy like Darryl Reynolds comes in and does what he's supposed to do. They have terrific guard play and they're smart and tough."
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