Brunson leads Villanova past Temple, 83-67

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


By Joe Juliano

The Philadelphia Inquirer



PHILADELPHIA — Villanova freshman Jalen Brunson was on the receiving end of boos when he was introduced and every time he handled the ball, with the Temple crowd expressing its displeasure at his choice of the Wildcats over the Owls.

Brunson had an odd way of acknowledging the boos, however. He found the range on shot after shot, 9 of 11 in all, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range, and scored a career-high 25 points to lead the top-ranked Wildcats to an 83- 67 victory over the Owls before a record crowd of 10,472 at the Liacouras Center.

The Wildcats (23-3), in winning their 14th consecutive Big Five game, won their third straight City Series title. The Owls (16-9, 2-2 Big Five) saw their five-game winning streak snapped.

The 6-foot-2 Brunson, who committed to the Wildcats and not the Owls, the school where his father, Rick Brunson, starred in basketball, showed no emotion the entire game.

He had the same passive expression when the boos rained down on him as he did when he was knocking down shots. He was particularly impressive in the second half. He converted a reverse layup in the Wildcats’ 7-0 run to start the half and increase a 12-point halftime lead to 42-23.

He converted back-to-back 3-point baskets, the second one giving ‘Nova a 54- 33 advantage with 13 minutes, 13 seconds to play, and another 3-pointer gave the visitors their largest lead at 22, 59-37 with 11:28 remaining.

The Owls made a game of it by holding Villanova without a field goal for six minutes and going on a 10-0 run to draw to within 12, 65-53, on a 3-point basket by Trey Lowe with 7:19 left. Phil Booth broke the field goal drought for ‘Nova with a dunk at the 4:38 mark and the Cats were up 16.

The Owls later trimmed the margin to 11, 73-62, on Lowe’s three with 3:19 remaining, but Brunson responded with a short jumper 29 seconds later. Daniel Ochefu then scored six points in an 8-0 run that enabled ‘Nova to put the game away. Ochefu finished with 16 points and nine rebounds and teammate Kris Jenkins added 15 points.

Lowe scored a careerhigh 21 points for the Owls, who also got 15 points and nine rebounds from Obi Enechioniya. The Wildcats got eight points from Brunson and from Phil Booth off the bench in the first half and took a 35-23 lead at halftime. The visitors shot 46.4 percent from the field and held Temple to 37.9 percent shooting, including 1 of 10 from 3-point range. Josh Brown, who sat out the opening 8:56 with what was described as a “time management issue,” shot 5 of 8 after entering the game and led Temple with 10 points. Enechionyia had seven points and seven rebounds.

Quenton DeCosey sat out the final 7:38 after picking up his second personal foul. The Wildcats took control of the game in the first half, when they outscored Temple 23-8 over a six-minute stretch. Booth sparked the run with six straight points _ a tip-in and two mid-range jumpers.

Brunson later added five straight points on a 3-pointer and a jumper from the elbow. Ryan Arcidiacono and Mikal Bridges each swished a trey to finish the run, giving the Cats a 31-17 lead with 4:30 left in the half. The Owls went 4 for 14 from the field during the Villanova run. Brown kept the Owls in the game, accounting for eight straight points for his team, then finishing the Temple scoring with an 18-footer that narrowed the deficit to 12 points at the half.


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