Nova Claims Fifth-Straight Big 5 Title With Rout Of Temple
Five-straight Big 5 titles. Check. 22-straight Big 5 wins. Check. Avoiding a letdown after taking over the No. 1 ranking. Check.
Villanova checked all the boxes en route to an 87-67 thumping of Temple. A pair of Wildcats took turns in starring roles. Jalen Brunson and Omari Spellman each posted career-highs as the Wildcats emphatically answered the lingering questions from Sunday’s win over LaSalle.
‘Nova quickly quieted the raucous Temple crowd, jumping out to a 7-0 lead. That lead stretched to 25-5 as the ‘Cats hit five of their first 11 from beyond the arc.
Quinton Rose, who was stellar for the Owls, hit threes on three-consecutive possessions, and that seemed to spark Temple on the defensive end. With increased defensive pressure, Temple mounted a 16-3 run to close the gap to seven, 28-21. That would be as close as the Owls would get.
Nova responded with a 9-0 run of its own, building the lead back to 16. Ultimately, the ‘Cats would take a 46-29 advantage into the half.
Jalen Brunson was nothing short of spectacular, scoring 22 first half points. He added four assists and three rebounds, shooting 8-10 from the floor and 5-7 from three.
Overall the ‘Cats shot 59% from the floor and 50% from three in the first half and assisted on 11 of their 17 field goals.
The second half brought more of the same, as the lead remained in the 16-20-point range, and the Owls never threatened again. The only difference was that it was Omari Spellman’s turn in the spotlight.
After a solid first half in which he posted 10 points on 4-5 from the field and 2-3 from deep, Spellman exploded in the second half. He finished with 27 points, eight rebounds, two assists, and a steal. He shot 11-14 from the floor and 4-7 from three. Spellman has seemed to find his stroke from deep, but he got his offense started with some inside touches. Even as the deep-balls were falling, he didn’t fall in love with them, still doing work in the post. It was the first time Nova Nation was treated to the full Omari Spellman experience, and it was quite a show.
Brunson finished with 31 points on 11-16 and 6-10. He added six rebounds and five assists. As usual, it was a joy watching Brunson play, and he absolutely took over the game in the first half, quickly extinguishing any hopes of an upset.
Phil Booth played despite missing shootaround with an illness. With Brunson, and then Spellman, carrying the load, not much was needed from Booth, but he chipped in two points, three rebounds, three assists, and two steals in a gutty effort.
Mikal Bridges was quiet offensively for the second-straight game, hitting just three of his 10 shots and one of his four threes. He had seven points, three rebounds, two assists, two steals, and two blocks, continuing to affect the game regardless of his offensive production.
Eric Paschall was steady, contributing six points, five rebounds, three assists, and a steal.
Donte DiVincenzo had a nice game, with 12 points, four assists, three rebounds and a steal. He shot 4-6 from the field and 2-4 from deep, knocking down some timely shots.
Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree had two points and a rebound in 12 minutes.
The ‘Cats were dominant offensively, working their offense with ease. As usual, they moved the ball beautifully, assisting on 19 of their 33 field goals. The shot selection was good, and ‘Nova got a nice mix of inside and outside offense. They also did an excellent job getting out in transition and turning Temple turnovers into points.
But the bigger story was the defense. The Wildcats’ defense was much improved from Sunday. Their closeouts were much better, and their rotations were crisp and timely. Temple shot 47% from the floor and just 37% from three, and the Owls had to work for what they got.
While Quinton Rose got his, scoring 27 points, Villanova did an excellent job limiting Shizz Alston and Obi Enechionyia, holding the duo to a combined 13 points on 5-19 shooting and 0-6 from three.
The effort and intensity were there from the start, and it was the ‘Cats, not the Owls, who looked ready to play. Villanova maintained the intensity for a full 40 minutes, weathering the lone push Temple was able to make and quickly erasing any hopes of an upset.
It was a complete effort, 40 minutes of Villanova basketball. The ‘Cats were again able to make a statement on national TV, and looked every bit like the number one team in the country.
In addition to the fifth-straight Big 5 title, the win gave Villanova 26 all-time Big 5 titles, moving the ‘Cats to within one of Temple for the most in the history of the city series.
Nova Nation will have a while to enjoy this one, as a lull in the schedule for finals gives the ‘Cats nine days off before hosting Hofstra.