It was a family matter for Jalen Brunson, whose father enjoyed an excellent career at Temple.
At one point in time, the Owls were in the mix, potentially following his father’s instincts to North Broad Street.
However, he turned away from Temple and eventually set his heart not too far away at Villanova.
So when he and the Villanova Wildcats entered the sold-out Liacouras Center, he was greeted with boos and disdain. Many in the sea of cherry and white called him a “traitor,” referring to his decision to cut Temple from his list and go to Villanova.
Regardless, the freshman point guard put together one of his best performances of his young career, scoring 25 points to help Villanova win 83-67.
“It felt great,” said Brunson, about quieting the crowd. “But I was playing for my teammates, not the crowd.”
He was nearly perfect on the floor, shooting 9-of-11 overall and 4-of-5 from long range. In the second half, he made three straight 3-pointers in a row.
Villanova and Temple duked it out in the beginning, trading baskets to keep it close. However, the Wildcats’ defense was able to put a halt to Temple’s rhythm. Villanova forced six early turnovers.
During this span, the Wildcats were able to capitalize on the Owls’ mistakes and use a 20-6 run to get ahead. Once Villanova pushed its lead into double figures, the Temple crowd was taken out of the game.
While the Owls were able to take good care of the ball in the second half, they couldn’t overcome the growing deficit. They finished with nine turnovers for the game, around par with their average turnover rate of the season.
The Wildcats scored the first seven points to start the second half and eventually pushed their lead to the 20s. Their largest lead came at the 10:10 mark in the second half, when Darryl Reynolds sank two free throws to increase Villanova’s lead to 63-40.
Temple had one last push to cut Villanova’s lead down to 11, but it wasn’t enough. It was far too late, and the Wildcats responded with a 8-0 run to pull away in the closing minutes.
Villanova avoided an upset and won its third straight outright Big 5 title.
“We know how special [the Big 5] is,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “There’s nothing like playing road games in the Big 5. It was a very good win against a very good team.”
Temple’s leading scorer, Quenton DeCosey, was limited to only 10 points. With DeCosey contained, the Owls saw big performances from Obi Enechionyia and Trey Lowe. Enechionyia finished with 15 points and seven rebounds, while Lowe had a team-high 21 points coming off the bench.
Aside from Brunson, Daniel Ochefu came up big yet again for Villanova. He had 16 points off of 7-for-8 shooting, and collected nine rebounds. Kris Jenkins added 15 points.
Villanova improves to 23-3 overall and will resume action this Saturday against Butler for Senior Day. Tip-off is at 2:30 p.m.