After being down 25-13 in the first half, Temple rallied back to tie the game with Villanova at 25. The Wildcats were able to keep the Owls from taking the lead, but the game remained within a possession with a minute to go in the first half.
Then sophomore guard Ryan Arcidiacono dribbled down the floor and hit a three-pointer to extend his team’s lead to four. After a Temple jumper, Arcidiacono hit another three, taking a 36-31 lead into halftime. Those were Arcidiacono’s only six points of the game.
“Arcidiacono made two threes at the end of the first half that really, really hurt us,” coach Fran Dunphy said.
The Owls (6-14, 1-7 American Athletic Conference) couldn’t top No. 9 Villanova (19-2, 7-1 Big East Conference), falling 90-74 Saturday afternoon at the Liacouras Center. Had Temple won, they’d have clinched a share of the Big 5 title for the third straight year.
Junior guard Will Cummings led all scorers with 24 points, while sophomore guard Quenton DeCosey chipped in with 18. The Wildcats were led by senior guard/forward James Bell with 19 points.
“They made shots,” redshirt-junior forward Anthony Lee said. “They made a lot of shots right at the beginning of the second half.”
Villanova overwhelmed Temple at the beginning of the second half, outscoring them 23-6.
“They defended well,” Dunphy said. “We struggled a little bit to score in that first part of the second half. We had a couple of threes by [redshirt-senior guard Dalton Pepper], but we weren’t very good offensively in the second half. A lot of that is because their defense is so good. On our defense, obviously it’s not a strong suit of ours, but I thought there were a couple of threes that were made that were guarded.”
Cummings missed a portion of the second half with a cut lip. By the time he was hurt, Villanova had built up a 21-point lead.
“We were in a press, and I got a beat a little bit, so I was trying to recover,” Cummings said. “I think I reached, and I’m not sure. I don’t know if he hit me, or… I think he swung and I got a laceration on my lip.”
“Certainly in the first half, he was our offense,” Dunphy said. “He was keeping us in the game. In the second half, they were starting to make shots even before Will went out. So I think it would be nice to have him in there, but it’s one of those things that happens.”
Villanova won the tip and got off to a quick 6-2 lead, thanks to two three-pointers from senior guard/forward James Bell. Temple rallied back, cutting Villanova’s lead to 10-8 at the first media timeout behind four points each from redshirt-junior forward Anthony Lee and junior guard Will Cummings.
After the timeout, the Wildcats went on a 9-0 run that lasted until after the next media timeout. The Owls prevented the lead from getting much bigger over the next few minutes, going basket-for-basket over the next few minutes. Following the under-8 media timeout, Temple went on a 12-0 run to tie the game at 25-25. The tying basket was a layup by redshirt-senior guard Dalton Pepper – his first two points of the game.
The Wildcats prevented the Owls from taking a lead when freshman guard Josh Hart made a shot. Temple tied the game again after two Lee free throws, but Villanova pulled away towards the end of the half behind two three-pointers from sophomore guard Ryan Arcidiacono. At halftime, Villanova led 36-31.
Villanova began the second half with a 7-0 run to bring their lead back to 12. Temple responded with two threes from Pepper, making it a 45-37 deficit. The Wildcats scored 14 straight to take a 22-point lead with 12:11 to go in the game. Cummings broke the run by completing a three-point play, but on Villanova’s ensuing possession, Cummings cut his lip and was taken to the locker room. He later returned.
The deficit remained at about 20 for the next few minutes. The Owls cut the lead to 17 after a DeCosey layup with 5:16 remaining. The teams traded scores, going into the under-four media timeout with Villanova leading 80-63. The Owls continued to whittle down the lead, but couldn’t fully come back.
Evan Cross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @EvanCross.