Brunson leads No. 1 Villanova in rout of Temple
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Jalen Brunson helped Villanova continue its remarkable reign of Philadelphia.
Brunson had 22 of his career-high 31 points in No. 1 Villanova’s dominating first half and Omari Spellman scored 27 to help lead the Wildcats to an 87-67 rout of Temple on Wednesday night.
”He was incredible,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said of Brunson.
Donte DiVincenzo added 12 points for Villanova (11-0), which won its unprecedented 22nd straight Big 5 game.
The Wildcats, who moved into the top spot in the rankings for the third straight season this week, looked like the best team in the country in a dominating opening 20 minutes.
With his dad Rick – a former Temple standout and current assistant coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves who played nine seasons in the NBA – sitting two rows behind the Villanova bench, Brunson led the way.
The 6-foot-2 junior point guard made 8 of 10 shots, including 5 of 7 3-pointers, and added four assists while controlling the opening 20 minutes.
”I try to keep the same mindset, try to set the tone defensively and play my game, be aggressive, try to be a killer,” Brunson said. ”Today was one of those nights.”
Brunson didn’t know his dad was making the trip. Rick Brunson coached the host Timberwolves against the 76ers on Tuesday night and will fly home early Thursday morning for that night’s game against the Kings. He’s glad he squeezed in the trip to see his son.
”I thought he came out and set a tone and the rest of the team followed,” Rick Brunson said. ”As long as you compete, play hard and get a win, I’m happy.”
Jalen Brunson added six rebounds and five assists and ended 11 for 16 from the field and 6 for 10 from beyond the arc in 38 turnover-free minutes.
The performance surely impressed Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown and Rookie of the Year candidate Ben Simmons, who were among the sellout crowd of 10,206 at Temple.
Owls coach Fran Dunphy had high praise.
”He was just spectacular,” Dunphy said. ”He’s just terrific, plays with a great pace, so smart, great toughness. His efficiency is ridiculous.”
Quinton Rose scored 27 points for the Owls (6-3), who began the week No. 11 in the RPI rankings. It was the third straight season Temple played Villanova as a No. 1, and the Owls fell to 2-18 all-time against No. 1-ranked opponents.
The Temple student section was fired up in the pregame, hoping to help the Owls end Villanova’s Philadelphia dominance, but the Wildcats gave them little for which to cheer.
”You can’t make a mistake,” Dunphy said. ”When you do, they take great advantage of it.”
The Wildcats scored the first seven points as Temple came out cold, missing its first five shots and committing three turnovers.
And Villanova went from there.
The Wildcats took their biggest lead of the half on DiVincenzo’s 3-pointer that made it 25-5 with 11 minutes left before the break. And the lead reached 20 again on Brunson’s 3-pointer that made it 28-8 44 seconds later.
Temple rallied by scoring the next 13 points over 3 1/2 minutes to pull within 28-21 on Josh Brown’s jumper with 6:45 left before the break.
But Villanova continued making shots and Brunson, appropriately, finished the first-half scoring with a 3-pointer with 47 seconds left that gave the Wildcats a 46-29 lead.
Villanova shot 59 percent from the field and 50 percent from the arc in the opening 20 minutes.
The second half was a mere formality.
BIG 5 DOMINANCE
The Wildcats last lost a contest in the Philadelphia round-robin series to Temple on Dec. 5, 2012. The Big 5 also consists of La Salle, Saint Joseph’s and Penn.
Wright credited the Wildcats’ talent for the streak.
”We’ve had a run of four or five years of very good players who remained in the program,” Wright said. ”I hope to God they keep coming.”
UNDER THE RADAR
Wright laughed when describing Philadelphia’s low-key reaction to the Wildcats being tabbed No. 1 on Monday, the same day Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback Carson Wentz was deemed out for the season with a knee injury.
”I was a little depressed, too,” Wright said. ”We love basketball in Philadelphia, but there’s something different about the Eagles. That’s like religion in this town.”
Villanova: The Wildcats likely will hold the top spot in the rankings for at least another week, as they will take nine days off for exams before returning to the court. They will next play a nonconference game against Hofstra, the program Wright led before coming to Villanova, on Dec. 22 before beginning Big East play on Dec. 27 at DePaul.
Temple: The Owls host another Philadelphia school, Drexel, on Saturday and then play at Georgia on Dec. 22 before starting American Conference play on Dec. 28 against Tulane. The Owls will be looking for their 33rd NCAA Tournament appearance and will need a high finish in the conference to get there.
Villanova: After a break for exams, the Wildcats play Hofstra on Dec. 22 in Uniondale, New York.
Temple: Hosts Drexel on Saturday night.
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