VILLANOVA, Pa. — Jermaine Samuels stood at the free-throw line hearing “MVP” chants from the Villanova student section in the second half.
The sophomore forward scored 15 second-half points, including the Wildcats’ go-ahead 3-pointer with five minutes, 10 seconds remaining, in Villanova’s 69-59 comeback win against Temple (7-2, 2-1 Big 5) at the Finneran Pavilion.
After making two free throws with 4:01 left to extend the Wildcats’ (7-2, 2-0 Big 5) pivotal run to 12-0, Samuels received a thunderous ovation as he went to the bench.
Temple held Villanova’s three double-figure scorers — redshirt-senior guard Phil Booth, redshirt-senior swingman Eric Paschall and sophomore guard Collin Gillespie — to a combined 28 points on 6-for-27 shooting. But the Wildcats’ 29 bench points, including Samuels’ 15 and senior guard Joe Cremo’s 11, helped them earn the win.
“Our key matchups were Booth, Paschall and Gillespie,” sophomore guard Nate Pierre-Louis said. “[Samuels] was really the X-factor, and he killed us and we weren’t really prepared for him.”
Samuels entered Wednesday night’s game against Temple shooting just 30 percent from the field and 4-for-20 from 3-point range.
“That’s what good programs do,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “Somebody steps up that you’re not necessarily anticipating right away, and Samuels certainly did it for them tonight.”
Villanova, which is ranked No. 21 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, extended its record Big 5 winning streak to 24 games. The Wildcats haven’t lost in the city series since Temple defeated them on Dec. 5, 2012.
Temple’s three-game winning streak came to an end. The Owls lost the chance to enter next month’s matchup against Penn undefeated in Big 5 play and boost their NCAA Tournament resume with a win against the No. 2 team in the Ratings Percentage Index, according to RPI Forecast.
“It would have been a good win to have, but since we didn’t get it, we have a great conference, Cincinnati, [Central Florida], Houston, UConn, Wichita State,” senior guard Shizz Alston Jr. said. “So we’ll be able to get a good win for the tournament.”
Villanova trailed, 47-43, when it began its 12-point run. Temple went scoreless for 3:55 between a layup by junior guard Quinton Rose and a 3-pointer by Alston.
During the run, the Wildcats benefited from both turnovers and second chances. Samuels made a 3-pointer after a turnover by Rose and knocked down a pair of free throws after he grabbed an offensive rebound and drew a foul.
In the second half, Villanova grabbed eight of its 11 offensive rebounds and scored 10 of its 13 second-chance points. The Wildcats also shot 18-for-22 from the free-throw line in the final 20 minutes.
On the offensive end, Temple shot 0-for-4 from the field and had two turnovers during the stretch when Villanova took its first lead since halftime and never let it go.
“We needed to move the ball a little bit better than we did,” Dunphy said. “We needed better movement, better decision-making and again, I thought we did some really good things that got us to where we were. …That’s a time where we needed to really sustain our edge and we didn’t.”
Temple started the second half on a 10-2 run to take a 33-26 lead. Rose, who shot 1-for-6 in the first half, shot a perfect 3-for-3 during the run. Pierre-Louis scored the other three points as part of his game-high 19.
But Villanova answered right back with a 7-0 run of its own to tie the game.
“That could have been the separation right there that you couldn’t make up,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “I was really proud of our guys defensively. We hung in there because we still got some good shots after that and didn’t make them, but we kept grinding defensively until [Samuels] and Joe really kind of broke it open. But until that point, we were behind and struggling but our defense was keeping us in it.”
Temple will continue nonconference play on Wednesday at the Liacouras Center against the University of Massachusetts Amhers.