With the shot clock turned off in a 64-64 tie, redshirt sophomore guard Damian Dunn dribbled up the court, let the game clock run down, and drove to the basket to draw a foul with 1.1 seconds remaining in the game.
Dunn, who tied a school record by going 18-18 at the free throw line on Monday against Wagner College, walked up to the line, took two deep breaths and knocked down the two biggest free throws of the season, giving Temple a 66-64 lead. The free throws clinched Temple’s first victory against Villanova since 2012 and sent the home student section onto the court in celebration.
“We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel,” said redshirt sophomore guard Khalif Battle. “I told [Dunn] earlier in the season whenever the game came down to the wire, everybody get out of the way, let Dame get the ball in the ISO.”
The Owls (1-1, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) defeated Villanova University (1-1, 0-0 Big East Conference) 68-64 on Nov. 11 at The Liacouras Center. After unexpectedly dropping their season opener to Wagner on Nov. 7, the Owls made it a priority to focus on bouncing back by sticking to their gameplan of being aggressive in the paint and trusting their shooters to convert on their chances.
With less than a minute remaining, Wildcats’ sophomore guard Jordan Longino knocked down a wide open three-pointer on a pass from redshirt junior forward Eric Dixon to put Villanova up 64-62 prior to Dunn’s free throws.
Temple looked to sophomore forward Jamille Reynolds to produce under the basket early in the game, scoring all six of the Owls’ first points while picking up four rebounds in the first four minutes of the game.
“[Reynolds] showed me what he’s capable of,” said head coach Aaron McKie. “He has a lot more in the tank and I want him to empty the tank, he had 12 rebounds and I think that could have been easily 20.”
Battle, who came off the bench for the second consecutive game while recovering from a broken foot he injured last season, picked up right where he left off in the second half against Wagner on Monday. Battle scored 21 points, including a converted and-one three-pointer to put the Owls up 24-11 late in the first half.
The Owls led by as much as 13 in the first half, but an 11-3 run by the Wildcats cut the Temple lead to just five before halftime.
In the opening minutes of the second half, the Owls struggled to knock down open shots – a problem that plagued them in the late stages of their season opening loss against Wagner. The Owls also needed to take Reynolds off the floor just four minutes into the half after he picked up his third foul of the game.
Temple was unable to maintain their dominant presence down low and struggled to close driving lanes without Reynolds, allowing Villanova to consistently drive to the basket.
“For him being so much bigger than the a lot of guys he’s played against throughout his life, he gets a lot of those fouls called,” McKie said. “One bump, two bumps, as soon as somebody falls they call a foul so it is something that we have to continue to work on.”
Villanova finally secured their first lead of the game with just less than 11 minutes remaining after graduate guard Caleb Daniels was fouled on a three-point attempt and knocked down all three foul shots, putting the Wildcats up 47-45.
After several minutes of back-and-forth play, Dunn’s late-game heroics at the free throw line put the game away, giving the Owls their biggest win during McKie’s tenure as head coach.
“I can’t put it into words,” Battle said. “You watch it as a kid but you never experience it happening and Temple is one of the big time programs so we are just trying to bring it back to that and get our name back and it felt like a big party out there.”
The Owls will look to ride the momentum of the victory when they host Vanderbilt University (0-2, 0-0 Southeastern Conference) on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. at The Liacouras Center.