Temple 75, No. 3 Villanova 65
Juan Fernandez squashed No. 3 Villanova's reign as the best team in the city one 3-pointer at a time.
His early 3s kept Temple close, his first one of the second half gave the Owls the lead, and his big ones late in the game helped clinched their biggest regular-season victory in nearly 10 years. By the time Temple fans bellowed ``Overrated!'' and stormed the court, Villanova's perfect record and city dominance were finished.
Fernandez hit seven 3-pointers and scored a career-high 33 points and Ryan Brooks added 20 points in Temple's 75-65 victory over the Wildcats on Sunday.
``I've been thinking about this game all week,'' Fernandez said. ``I know Temple didn't beat Villanova for a long time. I think we needed this win. I think we need to prove ourselves.''
Fernandez led a sizzling 3-point attack that stunned the Wildcats (9-1) in the second half and helped them pull away for their first win over a top-five team since beating No. 1 Cincinnati on Feb. 20, 2000. The Owls (8-2) opened the half on an 11-0 burst and grabbed a lead in front of their raucous fans they would never surrender.
The fans demanded an encore after their biggest win in coach Fran Dunphy's four seasons, stomping the court and chanting ``We Want Kansas!'' in preparation for the top-ranked Jayhawks' visit on Jan. 2.
``What's it going to do for us down the line, I've got no idea,'' Dunphy said. ``We'll figure it out later on.''
The Wildcats hadn't lost a city series game since Feb. 4, 2008, against Saint Joseph's. Villanova has won 21 of its last 23 Big 5 games.
``We were going to get our first loss at some time,'' Villanova coach Jay Wright said. ``This team wasn't going to go undefeated, I promise you that.''
Lavoy Allen had 10 points and 17 rebounds for the Owls in their fourth straight win. The Owls beat Villanova for the first time since Dec. 4, 2004.
``We haven't beaten them in quite some time and to get it now, where they are ranked in the country and this time of year, I think is a great confidence booster and show what we're capable of in the future,'' Brooks said.
The Owls made the NCAA tournament the last two seasons under Dunphy and were certainly not a pushover for Villanova.
But the Wildcats have dominated the city series like few teams in the 55-year history of the Big 5. The Wildcats had cruised through the city games like a No. 1 seed handles a 16 in the tournament.
After Scottie Reynolds made a layup off his steal, then hit a pull-up 3 on the next possession for a 31-19 lead, Villanova appeared on its way to another rout in its perfect start.
Not so fast.
The Owls entered shooting only 29 percent from 3-point range, but, as so often happens in a Big 5 game in front of a packed crowd, the numbers are meaningless.
Fernandez hit big 3 after big 3, each one more meaningful than the last. His first one of the second half put the Owls ahead 39-37 and Craig Williams followed with a 3-pointer to cap an 11-0 run that put the roaring crowd on its feet.
Reynolds coolly keep Villanova in the game with a 3 that brought them to 49-47 and made it seem like Temple's lead would be short-lived.
Not Sunday. In front of nearly 8,500 fans at the Liacouras Center, Brooks nailed a 3 and so did Fernandez for a 59-53 lead.
The Owls made 11 of 22 3-pointers after entering a woeful 49 of 168. Fernandez, who was averaging only 10.6 points, missed only two of his 3-point attempts. He was 4 of 4 on 3s in the second half.
``When you're feeling good, I can't explain the feeling, you just throw it up there and it goes in,'' Fernandez said.
Brooks said he started running down the court to play defense each time Fernandez shot because he knew it was good. Reynolds was equally impressed with Temple's sophomore guard.
``Once a guy like that gets it going, it's hard to stop it,'' Reynolds said.
Reynolds led Villanova with 23 points, Antonio Pena had 16 and Corey Fisher 14.
Wright likes to say how Big 5 games - city games against Temple, Saint Joseph's, Penn and La Salle - ready his team for a rugged Big East season even though the nonconference games rarely help their RPI.
``There's benefits to it,'' Wright said. ``We'd either play these games or a national game like Kansas. We think these are just as good.''
The Owls gave them everything they could handle and looked like they were the team that ruled the city. Temple lost by one point earlier this season to No. 15 Georgetown, and have proved they are poised again to make a deep run in the Atlantic 10.
When Villanova looked like it was turning this one into a rout midway through the first half, Fernandez and Brooks sank 3s to slice the deficit to 37-31 at halftime.
``The end of the first half was critical to us,'' Dunphy said.
The Wildcats get a dose of good news when guard Reggie Redding returns to the team for Saturday's game against Fordham. Redding, arrested and charged over the summer with possession of a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, sat out the first 10 games because he violated the school's student of code of conduct.