Villanova’s Curtis Sumpter walked to the bench for the final time Saturday night as the Wildcats faithful showered his exit with a satisfying cheer.
Sumpter had been on-and-off the bench all night battling foul trouble, but when the forward took a seat this time, it was because his work was complete.
Sumpter took control of the paint, scoring 22 points and reeling in 14 rebounds to propel Villanova past Temple, 83-65, at the Pavilion.
“You also worry about Curtis Sumpter getting eight offensive rebounds,” Owls coach Fran Dunphy said. “It seemed like every one of them resulted in a stick-back.”
The Owls (6-5 overall, 0-1 Big 5) held a 30-29 lead at the half, but Sumpter’s play quickly informed the Owls that the second half would belong to the Wildcats. The 6-7 senior scored Nova’s first six points of the second stanza to give the Wildcats (10-2, 2-0) a lead they wouldn’t lose.
As Sumpter jump-started the Wildcats, the Owls struggled to retain their form from the first half, in which Dionte Christmas and Dustin Salisbery each hit double-digit scoring.
The Wildcats took away the open shots Christmas and Salisbery had seen in the first half. The duo each made just one second-half field goal. They took just 10 combined shots, down from the 18 field goals they attempted in the first frame.
“The whole half [Mike] Nardi was face-guarding me the whole time,” Christmas said. “They were switching a lot. The first half, they weren’t really switching off of me. I was coming off of screens. I was getting open a lot.”
With their best shooters covered, the Owls struggled to control the ball. They committed a season-high 19 turnovers, many coming after they beat Villanova’s press and had their offense set.
The Owls went four minutes before Mark Tyndale scored the team’s first point of the second half, on a foul shot.
“We’re horrible, man,” Tyndale said. “That’s all I can say about it. The coaches prepare us, but we’re the ones out there shooting. Ain’t nobody doing it, but us. That’s our fault.”
A steal by Christmas and a layup by Dion Dacons pulled the Owls withing 38-33, but three three-pointers by Nardi in two minutes extended the Wildcats’ lead to put the Owls down by 11, at 50-39.
The Owls would not come any closer than 10 points to the Wildcats.
But as the loss played out, Dacons went down late in the second half with a right foot sprain. He is listed as day-to-day.
The Owls begin 2007 with a trip to Durham, N.C. and a chance to upset No. 5-ranked Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Blue Devils have won the last six meetings between the schools, including last season’s game at the Wachovia Center.
The Owls have not topped the Blue Devils on the road since 1949, but came close in 2005.
John Kopp can be reached at email@example.com.