The Books Say...
When #25 Templa faced #8 Villanova at the Pavilion on Villanova's Main Line campus the national media touted the match up as a "1 in 220" game -- the last time two nationally ranked Big 5 teams faced off in a City Series game. But for the 6,500 fans who braved the December cold to watch Villanova beat back four Temple second half rallies to preserve their 78-74 win, it was just another night in the Big 5. Desipite taking a commanding eight point lead, 76-68 inside the last minute, the Wildcats watched the Owls record six points in the last 18 seconds to close the final margin to four points. Senior Corey Stokes scored a game-high 24 points to bring Villanova the school's 23rd win in the last 25 Big 5 games, and help the Wildcats clinch their third Big 5 title in the last four seasons. Senior forward Lavoy Allen paced Temple with 22 points and nine rebounds.
The Nova/Philadelphia Blogoshere has two (relatively) early returns, the Nova Blog posted some post game notes and linked to Aaron Bracy over at Philahoops.com for post game quotes and an interview with Juan Fernandez (for the Wildcat fans who think they may have missed his name on the roster...Fernandez is the Owls' Argentine point guard who fouled out in the last minute). Both sites are worth a look if you have the time. The Athletic Department website posted the official boxscore and the AP wire story, "No. 8 Villanova Beat(s) Crosstown Rival...", led off with Corey's scoring spree. The breakdown by halves...
The green highlighting is good news to the Villanova faithful, while the red highlighting denotes areas that will no doubt show up in the game films and post game notes Coach Wright will emphasize in practice. There appeared to be a pronounced drop off in efficiencies the second half.
The first half was played at Temple's pace, a somewhat leisurely 31 possessions that would stretch out to about 62 possessions for the game, just a tick lower than Temple's usual 66 possessions. Both teams abandoned their trademark defenses and posted surprisingly (for very different reasons) efficient offensive numbers. Temple's efficiency was powered by their shooting -- just about everything they threw up went in. And field goal accuracy, especially from beyond the arc, forgives many transgressions (like their 19% turnover rate and free throw conversion ratio -- compare the Owls' FTA/FGA to their FTM/FGA -- note the big drop off). Villanova shot poorly, yet managed to compensate by not turning the ball over (6.4% turnover rate) and by getting to the free throw line and converting efficiently when they got there. For the second half, the staff handed the ball to Sophomore guard Maalik Wayns, and the point guard-in-waiting did what he does best, pop the gear and punch the accelerator. The change in speed and emphasis on getting out in transition was helped (accidentally no doubt) by Temple's press. Effective in the first half at slowing the 'Cats down, Villanova found ways to pass over and dribble through it to get clean looks at their end of the floor. Temple's very hot shooting run also tailed off, a very helpful development for the Wildcats too.
Notes & Observations
1. Consistent with nail biters, the staff shortened the rotation considerably. Though the staff called numbers for nine players, only seven logged double digit minutes, with three players (Wayns, Stokes and Pena) getting PT >= 35 minutes.
2. Corey Fisher picked up two first half fouls and played only 12 minutes, dishing a dime and recording a steal. The senior guard also picked up two more fouls in the second half, and the staff, probably more concerned about the bulging rebounding dificiency, played him only 10 minutes, opting instead to go with a combination of taller, more rebound-oriented players such as Dominic Cheek and Maurice Sutton. The senior guard finished by scoring five points on 1-6 overall and 3-5 from the line, four rebounds, two dimes and one each of a turnover, steal and block, in 22 minutes of play.
3. Corey Stokes led all scorers with 24 points on 7-13 overall (a phenomenal 5-8 from beyond the arc) and 5-6 at the line. Two others, Maalik Wayns (21) and Mouphtaou Yarou (14) scored more than 10 points for the Wildcats.
Up Next -- The 'Cats will open the Big East season Sunday when they host Rutgers at the Pavilion. Rush the Court will be there with a live blog. Tip off is 1:00 pm.