by Craig Dimitri
What a way to end 2005....
#3 Villanova had little trouble with Temple, pounding the Owls at the Palestra, 75-53, and sending the Villanova faithful off to celebrate New Year's Eve on the town, with plenty of time to spare (tip-off was at 4 PM, and despite a sluggish second half, it was over around 6:15 PM).
Villanova avenged their one-point loss at Temple's hands last season, which took place at the Palestra as part of the Big Five Classic. They also retied the all-time series, which dates back to Villanova's inaugural season of 1920-21, at 39 victories apiece.
It was the Wildcats' ninth consecutive victory this season, as it seeks to be the first team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to go undefeated... It also puts the Wildcats in the driver's seat in the City Series, having now defeated Pennsylvania, La Salle, and Temple in their last three games. The Wildcats will seek a 4-0 sweep on Feb. 7 at the Palestra, against St. Joseph's.
Temple's decline has been remarkable. While Villanova usually will have more talent in these annual contests, a gulf has widened this season... Villanova was never challenged, taking a 37-25 lead at intermission, and the way Temple plays, they rarely can rally from a large deficit. The Chaney system is all about long possessions, and if they fall behind by double-digits, it's usually over, as they don't have the outside shooters or the speed to score a lot of quick, easy baskets (especially against a superior opponent, such as Villanova).
The four-guard lineup spearheaded the Villanova assault once again. Allan Ray had a game-high 20 points and five rebounds. Mike Nardi had 17 points, three rebounds, and two assists (in only 26 minutes). Randy Foye just missed the rarity of a triple-double: he finished with nine points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. And Kyle Lowry had 15 points, five rebounds, and four assists.
A pair of freshmen played significant roles, as well. Dante Cunningham logged 18 minutes, scoring two points and hauling in five rebounds. Shane Clark, newly eligible for the second semester, had 10 minutes of action, in which he had four points, four rebounds, and two blocks, which is very impressive for such limited playing time. Frank Tchuisi, Bilal Benn, Dwayne Anderson and Chris Charles also all made brief appearances.
For Temple (6-4, 1-1 City Series), Mardy Collins played all but one minute, scoring a team-high 19 points. Mark Tyndale was the only other Owl to reach double figures, as he had 14 points and eight rebounds. 'Nova forced an atypical 15 turnovers, as one of Chaney's tenets is maintaining possession until a shot is taken (even if it isn't a very good one).
Villanova will tip off the New Year at #9 Louisville, on Thursday.