Villanova tops Temple to win Big Five title

Posted: February 03, 2014

They've been playing Big Five games for almost six decades, and any coach who has participated in any of these normally pitched battles will tell you that it's almost impossible to have a single one-sided contest per year against a city opponent, much less four.

But Villanova cut through its City Series opponents this season with little difficulty. The ninth-ranked Wildcats finished off an unprecedented sweep on Saturday with a 90-74 victory over Temple before a sellout crowd at the Liacouras Center.

The 16-point margin was the lowest of the season against a Big Five opponent for the Wildcats (19-2). But it was enough for them to establish a City Series record with an aggregate four-game winning margin of 90 points (22.5 points per game), topping the mark of 83 that 'Nova set in the 2005-06 season.

"When you're coaching, you don't think of it" being easy, Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "When I'm watching games on TV, I'm saying: 'This game's over.' But when you're coaching it, you see them hitting threes, you start thinking they could come back."

But this one never appeared in doubt after James Bell and Darrun Hilliard combined to score Villanova's first 16 points of the second half to stretch a five-point halftime lead to 15. The margin got as high as 24 midway through the period.

The Owls (6-14, 2-2 Big Five) knocked down six of their nine three-point baskets after that, which, while it gave Wright some reason to worry, only got their deficit down to 14, and that came with about a minute left to play.

Bell sank five of the Wildcats' 12 threes and led his team with 19 points. Four other players finished in double figures as Villanova shot 57 percent from the field in the second half and 52.5 percent for the game.

"There's a mental toughness about them," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said, "and it's a checking-your-ego-at-the-door kind of toughness, which is not all that prevalent in college basketball today. That's what I think makes them so good."

Will Cummings led the Owls with 24 points, but had to sit out about six minutes of the second half after taking an inadvertent shot in the mouth. Dalton Pepper, who had 53 points in his previous two games, scored just 11 Saturday on 4-of-14 shooting.

While Villanova has a rather quick turnaround, playing Monday night at home against Xavier, Wright took a moment to acknowledge the Wildcats' sweep of Big Five opponents as "awesome."

"We take great pride in being a part of this," he said. "When we don't win it, we have great respect for the team that does because you've got to be a really good team to win this. If you win it outright, you've got to be really good."


jjuliano@phillynews.com

@joejulesinq

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