It isn’t often that 93 points aren’t enough to win a college basketball game.
But that’s just what happened to Temple Sunday night against Villanova.
The Owls engaged in a high-scoring duel with its visiting Big 5 rival, but didn’t have enough firepower to outlast No. 21 Villanova in a 101-93 loss in front of 7,720 on the 10th anniversary of the Liacouras Center.
The loss marked the start of a considerably tough stretch of games for the Owls (4-5).
Next on the docket is a matchup against another city rival, Drexel, at the Palestra Saturday. The Dragons (5-4) were on the cusp of snaring an NCAA Tournament berth last season, finishing with a surprising 23-8 overall record.
Following a home contest against Eastern Michigan (4-4) on Dec. 22, the Owls travel to Florida (9-1) to take on the two-time defending national champions on Dec. 29.
The Owls then ring in the New Year with a nationally-televised game against No. 6 Duke at the Wachovia Center on Jan. 9, before beginning Atlantic Ten Conference play with a contest at Charlotte (6-2) on Jan. 12.
“Obviously, there are some really good basketball teams that we will play,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “Another interesting thing is that we don’t play a lot of games here. We’re going to go once a week almost now.
“Obviously, we’ll get a lot of practice time. I’d rather be playing a few more games in this stretch but that’s just the way the schedule fell,” he added.
If the Owls performance against Villanova (7-1) is any indication of how they might fare against their upcoming slate of opponents, a lot of work will need to be done before Saturday’s game against Drexel.
The Owls surrendered 40-plus points in both halves and allowed the Wildcats to shoot 53.2 percent from the field. Villanova also burned the Owls from deep, draining 11-of-20 three-point attempts.
Despite their shooting efficiency, Villanova held a slim 47-45 lead over the Owls with 18:10 left in the second half before ripping of a 10-2 run to establish a 57-47 advantage with 16:24 remaining. Sophomore guard Scottie Reynolds helped spark the run, scoring eight consecutive points in a 1:04 stretch.
Reynolds finished with 27 points on 8-of-12 shooting, dished out nine assists, grabbed six rebounds and had three steals in 37 minutes. He was helped by fellow starters, junior forward Shane Clark, who had 17 points, and freshman Corey Fisher, who added 16.
Villanova extended its lead to as much as 24 points before the Owls utilized a 16-3 run to cut the lead to 11 with less than three minutes in the game.
But it was too little, too late.
Despite a career-high 22 point-effort off the bench from sophomore guard Ryan Brooks, the Owls didn’t have offensive weapons to match Villanova. Thanks to a 17-point performance from freshman forward Antonio Pena, the Wildcats’ bench outscored their counterparts, 32-22.
“We’ve really developed some depth and [it’s] really helped us,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “I think that’s what it came down to. They’ve got a lot of good players but I think we just had more.”
Wright, who sounded relieved to escape with a win after the Owls made their last-minute comeback, said he was impressed with Temple’s overall effort.
“They can score, man,” Wright said. “They’ve got guards who can score in different ways. They have guards who can shoot three’s, catch and shoot, they have guards that can get in the lane and rise over you.”
For the Owls to have success against its upcoming slate of opponents, they will need that type of effort from not only their guards, but from the entire team.
BIG 5 STRETCH
By defeating Temple Sunday, Villanova improved its Big 5 winning streak to 13 consecutive games, passing the prior record of 12 which was established by Penn from 1972 to 1975.
“It’s a great honor,” Wright said. “For me, growing up watching those Penn teams – I loved those teams … To be mentioned with them is awesome.”
The Wildcats have won the last two Big 5 titles outright, while sharing the 2004-05 crown. They stand at 2-0 in the Big 5 this season after defeating visiting Penn, 87-61, on Dec. 1.
Although the Owls have a losing record at 4-5, the A-10 is thriving against tough competition so far this season.
The conference currently ranks fifth in the nation in RPI according to collegerpi.com and 10 of the league’s 13 teams are above .500.
The Owls have dropped their last three games against ranked opponents, including an 80-63 loss to No. 7 Tennessee on Nov. 9 and a 73-55 loss last season to No. 5 Duke. Temple’s last victory over a ranked opponent came in a 68-53 win over George Washington in the second round of the A-10 Tournament on March 9, 2006 … Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, the reigning National League MVP, was in attendance at the game along with Temple alumnus and former Philadelphia Sixers guard Aaron McKie. Temple women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley was also in attendance … Former Temple University President Peter Liacouras threw out the ceremonial tip before the game in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Liacrouas Center. … During a break in the second half, the Temple student section held up a sign that read “Tim Donaghy (Nova Class of ’89)” in reference to the former NBA referee who made national headlines when he resigned from the league in July after it was alleged that he bet on games that he officiated in the last two seasons.
Tyson McCloud can be reached at email@example.com