The men’s basketball team extended its home winning streak to 24 straight games after winning the latest round of the Big 5 bout with Villanova, 78-67, in front of a raucous and sold-out Liacouras Center.
“It took a total team effort,” redshirt-senior guard Ramone Moore said. “We rebounded as a team, made free throws down the stretch, a lot of guys stepped up. It was a great, great team win.”
Moore took over the game scoring a career-high 32 points, with 23 of those coming in the second half and he shot lights out from the free throw line, going 14-15.
“We got beat by a better team,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “Their guard play down the stretch controlled the game. We just had a real difficulty guarding their guards.”
Temple was without frontcourt starters senior forward Scootie Randall and redshirt-senior center Micheal Eric due to injuries so there was concern before the game that rebounding could be an issue.
Villanova came out of the gate and seemed to want to take advantage of that as they went to 6’10” 255 pound junior forward/center Mouphtaou Yarou early and often. But redshirt-freshman forward Anthony Lee held his own in the matchup with the help of junior forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson. The duo combined for 23 total rebounds, 13 of those coming on the offensive end. Hollis-Jefferson’s 14 rebounds were an individual career high.
The teams traded baskets and exchanged leads back and forth in the first part of the first half with the home crowd providing a loud and intense atmosphere. Junior guard Khalif Wyatt seemed to give the Owls a nice cushion, 21-15, when he drained an NBA-range three-pointer at the nine-minute mark and again with a driving lay-up with five minutes remaining. Eleven of Wyatt’s 13 points came in the first half.
Villanova countered with a 9-0 run to take a three-point lead before Moore snapped the Owls out of their lull. The Wildcats held the lead 36-35 at the half. Junior guard Maalik Wayns led Nova with 13 point at the half.
Nova held onto the close lead early in the second half but Moore was beginning to heat up, scoring eight points in the first five minutes. But Yarou was counter-punching, nearly every time Moore scored, with his own mid-range jumpers.
Sophomore guard Aaron Brown made a three-pointer with 12 minutes to go to give Temple its first bench points of the evening and Brown finished with seven points. With the score tied at 54-54 with 8:30 to go, junior reserve guard T.J. Dileo broke the tie and started a crucial 10-0 run that Moore and head coach Fran Dunphy called the most important stretch of the game. Moore contributed to that run with a driving lay-up and then a putback off of a missed free throw by Hollis-Jefferson.
A pair of Nova free-throws stopped the run but didn’t stop Moore from taking over. He scored in the lane on what can only be described as an acrobatic shot off the glass and made the ensuing free throw to extend the lead to 10 again with 5:16 to go.
“’Mone had to take over and he did,” Dunphy said. “But we’re not surprised because that’s the type of player and person he is. He’s the glue of our group, he’s the one everyone looks up to.”
Villanova was trying to get back into it but their outside shooting was struggling. They finished 3-20 from beyond the arc. A few hustle plays by Hollis-Jefferson to keep Temple possessions alive also didn’t help.
“There were so many little plays that they made,” Wright said. “They weren’t spectacular plays but they were winning plays.”
With Wyatt in foul trouble, Juan Fernandez struggling from the field, and both teams in the penalty, Moore continued to put on a show and get to the line at the same time.
“I was just trying to be aggressive because I knew it was going to take a big game from one of us to beat these guys,” Moore said.
Moore tied his career-high, previously set in an upset last year at home against Georgetown, while at the free-throw line giving Temple a 72-65 lead with two minutes to go. He then sealed the game with a nifty pass to Brown for an easy lay-up after the Owls had used up all of the shot clock with a minute to go. More free throws on the next possession gave Moore his new career high.
Temple outscored Villanova 43-31 in the second half and 48-28 in the paint. Wayns finished with 23 points and 7 assists to lead the Wildcats. Yarou added 14 points and 8 rebounds. Lee finished with 6 points and 9 rebounds before fouling out late in the game and Hollis-Jefferson recorded his second double-double with 11 points and 14 boards.
The young Nova team fell to 5-4 with the loss and Temple improved to 6-2 and 2-0 in Big 5 play. Up next for Temple is a trip to the southwest to face the 6-2 Texas Longhorns a week from today.
Brandon Stoneburg can be reached at email@example.com.