Wearing a blue cutoff shirt, Villanova’s Daniel Ochefu finished up his pregame warmup with a two-handed slam dunk 45 minutes before tipoff.
With his teammates headed to the locker room, the senior forward followed behind as boo’s from the Temple student section filled the Liacouras Center on Wednesday night.
Ochefu scored 16 points and nine rebounds, helping the Wildcats, the No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 poll, defeat Temple 83-67, snapping the Owls’ five-game win streak.
“I thought they were terrific,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “They have very few weaknesses, if any. I thought their ball movement was great.”
Trailing by as many as 23 points in the second half, the Owls (16-9, 10-3 American Athletic Conference) cut Villanova’s lead to 11 points with 2:30 remaining in the game. Following the Owls’ run, the Wildcats outscored the Temple 11-5 to finish out the game, sealing their 14th straight Big-5 victory.
The Owls cut Villanova’s lead to 11 points twice in the final four minutes of play, but Temple couldn’t trim the Wildcats’ lead to single digits. The Owls last defeated Villanova on Dec. 5, 2012 at The Pavilion.
“It was a tough battle,” sophomore forward Obi Enechionyia said. “They came out on top. I think they played a little better than us, but I think we both fought hard. We didn’t quit. We didn’t give up when we were down.”
The Owls were led by Trey Lowe, who scored a career-high 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including five 3-pointers.
The freshman guard’s previous career high of 11 points came in the Owls’ 70-63 win against South Florida on Jan. 31.
“The coaches and the players always tell me to keep my head and always wait your turn, my time will come,” Lowe said. “They just say play in the game and everything will come to you.”
“I thought Trey Lowe seized the moment,” Dunphy added.
Villanova freshman guard Jalen Brunson scored a game-high 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the field. The guard came into Wednesday’s game averaging 10.7 points per game, tied for fourth most on the team.
Brunson’s father Rick played at Temple from 1991-95, totaling 1,493 points in 124 career games. Jalen initially showed interest in Temple before signing with the Wildcats. The freshman was pestered by the crowd throughout the night for his decision to attend another Big-5 school.
“I thought Jalen Brunson was tremendous,” Dunphy said. “I thought he seized the moment.”
“It felt great, just to quiet the crowd, but I was playing for my teammates not the crowd,” Brunson said. “They were excited for me, and I just had to keep making the right plays at the right time.”
After heading into the halftime locker room with a 35-23 lead, Villanova started the second half on a 7-0 run, increasing its lead to 19 points with 17:04 remaining in the game.
The Wildcats boosted their lead to 20 points on a jump shot from junior forward Kris Jenkins with 14 minutes remaining.
Junior guard Josh Brown, who did the start the game because of what Dunphy called academic issues, scored 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting in 11 minutes of action in the first half. The guard finished the game with 13 points of 6-of-13 shooting.
The Owls turned the ball over nine times on Wednesday—four came while Brown was on the bench. Coming into the game, the Owls were No. 1 in Division I in fewest total turnovers.
After dealing with foul trouble in the first half, senior guard Quenton DeCosey scored 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting from the field in the game. The senior was limited to 11 minutes in the first half, as he picked up his second foul with 7:38 remaining until halftime.
Villanova outscored Temple 24-10 while DeCosey was on the bench in the final 7:38 of play in the first half.
“He definitely could have helped us,” Enechionyia said. “When things like that happen, other people need to stand up. … When we don’t have our top scorer in the game, it can hurt us.”
Temple finished 8-of-24 from 3-point range after shooting 1-of-10 in the first half.
After the Owls took a 9-8 lead with 14:02 left in the first half, the Owls were outscored 27-15 the rest of the half.
“I think we need to attack when our shots aren’t really going in,” Enechionyia said. “It happens, you just need to find another way to win, and we didn’t.”
Michael Guise can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Michael_Guise
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