VILLANOVA, Pa.—Sometimes, it can all unravel before you know what hit you.
No. 15 Villanova downed the men’s basketball team, 62-45, thanks in large part to 14-0 second-half run and 23 points from sophomore guard Corey Fisher.
Temple (5-6, 0-1 Big Five) was led by senior guard Dionte Christmas, who despite shooting 4-19 from the field and 3-10 from beyond the arc, fronted the team with 13 points.
He was the lone Owl in double figures, as the Cherry and White collectively shot a disastrous 31 percent from the field and 28 percent from 3-point territory.
Yet, the Owls went into the half with a three-point lead and increased that advantage to eight at the beginning of the second half on a bucket from sophomore guard Lavoy Allen. But, the Wildcats responded with five 3-pointers in the next six possessions, with Fisher and junior guard Scottie Reynolds each accounting for two of those baskets.
Villanova (12-1, 4-0 Big Five) never looked back from that point on.
Coach Fran Dunphy blamed the second half collapse, in which the Owls were outscored 40-20, on a simple matter of shots not falling.
“I thought we had a series of decent looks at the basket,” he said. “If Dionte is shooting the ball and Ryan Books is shooting the ball, then that’s good offense for us. We just did not make shots today.”
Central to those misses was Christmas, who knows all-too-well that the Owls will only go as far as he takes them.
“I thought they paid more attention to detail in the second half on the defense end, not just on me, but on everybody,” Christmas said of Villanova’s adjustments. “Those guys did a great job in the second half, like coach said. Corey Fisher came out blazing hot, every shot he took was going in the basket.”
Yet, like Dunphy, he attributed some of his struggles to the basic notion that his shot was just not falling.
“[In the] second half I had a lot of open looks, good shots,” Christmas said. “[It] just wasn’t falling. You have nights like that.”
Junior guard Ryan Brooks also had that kind of night, finishing with just nine points on 4-11 from the field.
Meanwhile, Allen attempted just two field goals and finished with two points, three rebounds and a game-high five turnovers, playing in only 25 minutes of action because of two quick personal fouls he picked up in the first half.
“He needs to play better,” Dunphy said. “He needs to decide how good a player he wants to be, but that’s something he’s battled all along.”
The same in-game problems that pegged Allen also affected senior guard Semaj Inge, who finished with more turnovers (one) than points (zero).
The Owls’ starting point-guard didn’t attempt a shot and played in just 11 minute of action, as he also picked up two quick fouls in the first half and was never really in the game in the second half.
“[Inge] made a couple of mistakes that he can’t make if he’s going to help us be the best team,” Dunphy said. “His second foul was foolish. So it ruins the rhythm of what you’re trying to do and it ruins his rhythm.”
Yet, the Owls can leave the Main Line knowing that they hung with one of the better teams in the nation. Though, moral victories don’t count for a team looking to make the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year, the Owls still managed to win the respect of Villanova coach Jay Wright.
“It was a much tougher game than the score indicates,” he said. “Temple’s tough, man.”
The Owls return to action Jan. 5 against Kent State. Tip-off of slated for 7 p.m. at the Liacorous Center.
The much-anticipated debut of freshman guard Juan Fernandez was nothing more than a tease, as the 6-foot-4 guard from Argentina sat on the bench for the entire game…Fernandez said he respected the coaches decision to sit him, though Dunphy was quick to add to add that the Owls’ newest addition could play next Monday…Freshman forward Michael Eric quietly had a solid day, finishing with nine points and four rebounds in 19 minutes of action…The win sealed the Big Five title for Villanova, as the program has now won 18 of 19 Big Five games.
Todd Orodenker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.