Sunday, December 13, 2009

Villanova / Temple Rivalry History, As #3 Wildcats Seek Big Five Sweep Against Owls Today

To the Wildcat faithful-

Here's a concise history of the ancient rivalry between the Wildcats and the Temple Owls...  Today marks the 82nd meeting between the City Series rivals...

Villanova leads all-time, 42-39.  The rivalry is one of the oldest for Villanova, as they faced the Owls twice, during the first-ever season of Wildcats basketball, in 1920-21; the Wildcats swept Temple that year.

A Look at Villanova / Temple, over the Last 17 Years - the Steve Lappas Era and the Jay Wright Era

December 11, 1993 - The old Spectrum - #5 Temple 54, Villanova 49

It was the first time that Lappas had faced Temple as a head coach, although he had previously done so as an assistant to his predecessor, Rollie Massimino.  The Wildcats nearly pulled off a huge upset of the #5 Owls, ultimately falling 54-49.

Eddie Jones had to drill no fewer than three shots near the conclusion of the shot clock, to hold off a Villanova rally led by Kerry Kittles; Jason Lawson's foul-out near the end fatally damaged Villanova's hopes.

December 13, 1995 - The old Spectrum - Temple 62, #2 Villanova 56

Two years later, the tables had turned, and it was Villanova in the top 5 nationally.  The Wildcats, sporting an undefeated 7-0 record and ranked second nationally, had a nucleus Kittles, Lawson, Alvin Williams, Eric Eberz, Jonathan Haynes, and Chuck Kornegay.  They should have easily crushed the Owls, in their final meeting at the old Spectrum, now slated for demolition.  But Temple - which entered the game with a 1-3 record - shocked the Wildcats, with a 62-56 upset on ESPN. 

December 16, 1997 - The Pavilion - Villanova 68, #16 Temple 57

In 1997-98, a rebuilding Villanova team under Lappas, eventually finished under .500 and did not receive a postseason bid for the first time since 1993.  (In fact, right up to the present day, this team was the last Villanova squad to end up with a losing record and with no postseason bid.)

It was the first meeting with Temple in two years, due to Villanova's absence from the round-robin during the 1990s.  The Owls brought a 6-1 record and a #16 ranking into the contest at the Pavilion, facing the 3-4 Wildcats.  But Villanova delighted the packed Pavilion with a stunning 68-57 victory over the Owls.  What made it particularly memorable was the ejection of Temple coach John Chaney at the 15:41 mark of the second half, disputing a foul called on Rasheed Brokenborough.  Temple's backcourt of Brokenborough and Juan "Pepe" Sanchez would shoot just 8-34 for the contest.

Howard Brown and John Celestand - bench players on the #2 team that had been upset, two years earlier - powered the upset.  Brown hit four triples, winding up with 19 points, while Celestand had 16 points and dealt half a dozen assists.  Marvin O'Connor, who eventually transferred to St. Joseph's, came off the bench for a dozen points. 

December 15, 1999 - The Apollo of Temple (now the Liacouras Center) - #17 Temple 69, Villanova 66

This was the first Villanova City Series game, against any opponent, since Villanova announced it would rejoin the full round-robin, at the conclusion of the 1998-99 season.  It also marked the Wildcats' first visit to the then-Apollo of Temple, now the Liacouras Center, which opened in 1997-98.

The Wildcats put up a spirited battle, but the upset bid failed, 69-66, when T.J. Caouette's potential game-tying triple, on a pass from Bobby Smith, didn't go down at the buzzer.  Brian Lynch hit four consecutive three-pointers to get the Wildcats back in the game, and Jermaine Medley had tied the game with a triple, with about a minute to play.  The unlikely hero for Temple was their reserve post player, Ron Rollerson, who came off the bench for a near double-double - nine points, nine rebounds - in only 16 minutes.

December 5, 2000 - The Pavilion - Villanova 69, Temple 62

This was the final time Lappas would face Temple- although nobody knew it at the time. It was the first of the four Big Five games for Michael Bradley, in what became known as the "Bradley year", since the Kentucky transfer was playing his third season of eligibility - and what would be his only year playing for Villanova - that season, as he put up All-American numbers.

Bradley led a charge at the end that propelled the Wildcats to a 69-62 triumph. Medley tied a career-high with 18 points, while Gary Buchanan had 17.  Lynn Greer led Temple with 16 points, to go with nine assists, and grabbed seven rebounds.

December 8, 2001 - The Palestra - Villanova 70, Temple 66

The series returned to the Palestra for the first time in 17 years, as part of the inaugural Big Five Classic - a tripleheader between the six Philadelphia teams.  And, fittingly, it was the first time Jay Wright led the Wildcats into battle against Temple.

The City Series had been rough on the Wildcats thus far; earlier that month, they had fallen to both La Salle at the Pavilion, and Penn at the Palestra - with both losses in overtime. 

In the final game of the evening, the Wildcats and Owls put on a great show for the Palestra crowd, with Villanova edging Temple for a 70-66 victory, in a narrow, thrilling contest.  It was Wright's first Big Five win.

Derrick Snowden nailed the game-winning basket for the Wildcats; he also drained two free throws with six seconds to play to seal it.  Reggie Bryant - who eventually transferred - tied a career-high with 17 points.  Villanova - who had led 50-36 with less than twelve minutes to go - had to fend off an Owls rally late.  Greer turned in an incredible performance, scoring 29 points.

March 22, 2002 - NIT Quarterfinals - The Liacouras Center - Temple 63, Villanova 57

It was the second meeting between Villanova and Temple that season, and it came in the quarterfinals of the NIT.  Villanova was seeking to return to the NIT semifinals in Madison Square Garden, for the first time since Lappas had led the team to a NIT championship back in 1994.

Greer, the Owls' best player who had averaged over 23 points per game as a senior, had suffered a high ankle sprain in a previous NIT game, and would not be available.  Surely, the Wildcats had a great shot?

But it was not to be.  In a seesaw battle down the stretch, Villanova trailed 59-54 with under a minute to play, but Bryant hit a three to bring the Wildcats within two - he had a game-high 19 points.  Snowden's potential game-tying shot was swatted by Kevin Lyde under the basket; Lyde became only the third Owl to score 1,000 points and grab 1,000 rebounds in his career.

New Year's Eve afternoon, 2002 - The Pavilion - Villanova 70, Temple 62

This game was overshadowed by the Eagles' playoff game with the Atlanta Falcons that night; the Villanova/Temple game, played at 4 PM, was almost overlooked completely.

Temple dragged a 2-6 record into the game, although they had upset #10 Indiana the previous week.  But at the Pavilion, the Owls committed 18 turnovers, a shocking number for a Chaney-coached team.  Buchanan, who scored 10 points of his own, shut down the Owls' leading scorer, Alex Wesby.  Wesby had scored 26 against the Hoosiers; he had three against the Wildcats.

It was the first Temple game for Wright's first heralded recruiting class - Allan Ray, Randy Foye, Curtis Sumpter, and Jason Fraser.  Sumpter featured a dunk in the game, as Villanova made a 7-0 run to salt away the victory.

November 21, 2003 - The Liacouras Center - Villanova 73, Temple 48 - "The Midnight Game"

This was one of the most bizarre games in Big Five history, even by the colorful standards of the City Series.  Due to a very public and controversial scheduling conflict, that the two athletic departments were not able to resolve with other remedies, the game was scheduled to take place at the stroke of midnight on November 21, 2003 - the first day which the NCAA permitted a regular-season game (as opposed to an exempt holiday game or tournament).  17 buses ferry Villanova students to the North Philadelphia facility for the witching-hour contest.

The agreement was brokered, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, at the home of then-Penn coach Fran Dunphy (who, ironically, is now the coach at Temple), between Wright and Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw.  Chaney claims publicly afterward that "if it were up to me, we would never play them, period."

The game was also marred by a Villanova fan throwing a bottle onto the court, soon after tip-off (much like the one thrown by a Maryland fan last Sunday at the Verizon Center in the BB&T Classic).

As for the game itself- Ray and Foye each put up 20 points to pace the Wildcats to an easy victory, further souring Chaney's mood.  Thus, Villanova finally got a win at the Liacouras Center, on its third try.   

December 4, 2004 - The Palestra - Temple 53, Villanova 52

This is Temple's most recent victory in the series, in the Second Big Five Classic.  After hitting two free throws with 12 seconds to play, to bring Villanova within one, Sumpter tries a potential game-winning triple at the buzzer.  When it fails to drop, it permits the Owls to escape with the taut triumph.  Sumpter's 15 points and 13 rebounds lead the Wildcats.  Dustin Salisbery's three-pointer with 1:07 to play, constituted the Owls' final points, and they were just enough to win.

New Year's Eve afternoon, 2005 - The Palestra - #3 Villanova 75, Temple 53

One winter later, Temple once more scores 53 points, but this time, the Owls are on the distant, short end of the final score.  The unbeaten, third-ranked Wildcats have no trouble finishing off the Owls, and avenging the previous year's nailbiter on the same hallowed floor. This was the most recent game at the Palestra.

December 30, 2006 - The Pavilion - Villanova 83, Temple 65

December 9, 2007 - The Liacouras Center - Villanova 101, Temple 93

For the first time in the then-86-year history of the rivalry, the Wildcats break the century mark against the Owls.

December 29, 2008 - The Pavilion - #15 Villanova 62, Temple 45

Another chapter, written this afternoon...

More to come...

Go Wildcats!

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