Big Five on line for 'Nova, Temple

Posted: February 02, 2014

Two teams going opposite ways will be playing for the Big Five championship when Villanova visits Temple in Saturday's 4 p.m. game at the Liacouras Center.

Villanova has won at least a share of the title and can win it outright, while Temple is looking to be cochampion with a win.

Temple (6-13) snapped an eight-game losing streak with Wednesday's 88-82 win over visiting Rutgers. The Owls are 2-1 in the Big Five. Villanova, ranked No. 9 nationally by the Associated Press, is 18-2 and 3-0 in the Big Five.

The Wildcats are coming off road wins over Marquette and Georgetown after suffering a 96-68 loss to Creighton on Jan. 20 at the Wells Fargo Center.

"That Creighton game was an aberration and didn't speak to how good Villanova is defensively," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "Creighton made some deep shots."

Creighton hit 21 threes that game.

Dunphy said that what impresses him most about Villanova is the Wildcats' cohesion.

"The players don't care who gets the credit, and that is a sign of a great team," Dunphy said.

The Temple coach said he will likely mention to his team that they have the opportunity to share the Big Five title.

"There is a chance we will use that," he said laughing.

Villanova, on the other hand, has a straightforward approach. The Wildcats know the outright title is at stake and they would be proud to win it, but it's not their focus.

"As a team we are not focused on the Big Five as much as it's our next game and we are excited to play a good Temple team that just played Cincinnati pretty tough," said point guard Ryan Arcidiacono, a former star at Neshaminy.

Arcidiacono was referring to Temple's 80-76 loss to Cincinnati on Sunday. Cincinnati is 20-2 after winning, 69-66, Thursday at defending national champion Louisville.

Temple is led by 6-foot-5 senior Dalton Pepper, who is averaging 18 points a game after averaging 2.9 points in 11.3 minutes last year. This is Pepper's second year with the Owls and first season as a college starter after beginning his career at West Virginia.

"I am not surprised at anything I have seen from him," Villanova coach Jay Wright said of Pepper. "We recruited him and wanted him and lost him to West Virginia."

Senior guard James Bell leads Villanova with a 15.1 scoring average. The Wildcats have impressive depth, with nine players averaging 11 or more minutes per game.

City Six Weekend


Drexel (11-9, 3-4 Colonial Athletic Association)

at Towson (13-8, 4-2), 4:30 p.m. NBC-SN

For the second time this month, Drexel point guard Frantz Massenat scored a career-high with 32 points in Wednesday's 77-74 win at Hofstra. Massenat is putting himself in the running for Colonial Athletic player of the year. Also in the running is 6-foot-8 Towson senior Jerrelle Benimon (18.3 ppg., 11.5 rpg.), who had 27 points and 13 rebounds in an 80-68 win at Drexel.

Duquesne (10-9, 2-4 A-10) at La Salle (11-9, 3-3),

4 p.m. TCN

Take away Tyreek Duren's 7-for-13 shooting, and the the Explorers shot 8 for 42 in Wednesday's 69-47 loss at George Washington. La Salle has lost three in a row and will look for a season sweep against Duquesne, after beating the host Dukes 75-56 on Jan. 12.

Massachusetts (17-3, 4-2 A-10) at St. Joseph's (14-6, 4-2), 6 p.m. CBS-SN

The Hawks won at Dayton Wednesday despite scoring a season-low 20 points in the first half. Langston Galloway's three-pointer with 1.6 seconds left gave the Hawks a 60-57 win and now they meet a UMass team they lost to 66-62 on Jan. 8. No. 21 UMass has lost two of its last three with Wednesday's 78-65 defeat at St. Bonaventure.

Penn (4-12, 1-1 Ivy League) at Harvard (16-3, 3-0) 9 p.m., NBC-SN

Penn leads the series, 129-35, but Harvard has won seven of the last nine. Last season, Penn lost, 73-54, at Harvard but upset the eventual Ivy League champions 75-72 at the Palestra.

 - Marc Narducci


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