A reporter walked up to Jay Wright after Villanova’s practice on Tuesday and asked him if he thought the Wildcats' record 23-game winning streak in Big 5 games was mind-boggling.
“It is, and that’s why I never think about it,” the Cats' coach said. “Honest to God, I never think about it. I never talk about it.”
But the streak is there and will be on the line Wednesday night at Finneran Pavilion when the 21st-ranked Cats (6-2, 1-0 Big 5) take on Temple (7-1, 2-0). Coincidentally, the Owls were the last team to defeat Villanova in a City Series contest -- six years ago to the day at the same venue.
“I know that, too, because everybody tells me,” Wright said with a chuckle.
“I’ve watched [the Big 5] probably since 1966, that’s what I remember, like when I was 5 or 6 years old. I know what it means so I don’t even want to think about it. When it’s over someday, I think we’ll enjoy that. But right now, I want to think about the next game.”
Senior Eric Paschall and sophomore Collin Gillespie weren’t around for all 23 wins, and both said Wright never has discussed the streak.
“We try to take it day by day,” said Paschall, the team’s second-leading scorer with a 15.8-point average. “All those teams are great. They all give it their best shot and we try to give it our best shot. So they’re great games. The Big 5 is a great tradition.”
Gillespie conceded the streak was “good” but that the Owls give the Wildcats plenty to worry about, that “they’re a tough team and we have to come ready to play.”
Villanova has another streak Wright is not talking about. The Wildcats haven’t played at home since suffering back-to-back losses last month against Michigan and Furman, the first time they dropped two in a row at the Pavilion since Pittsburgh and Providence in early 2013.
Interestingly, the Cats defeated South Florida in their next home game, touching off a streak that reached a record 48 consecutive victories over the next four seasons.
Wednesday’s game also will mark the last game on the visitor’s sideline at the Finn for Temple coach Fran Dunphy, who will turn the job over to associate head coach Aaron McKie after the season ends.
Wright, who called this year’s Owls “one of the best teams we’ve played against since Dunph’s been here,” called the Temple coach “a great example to all of us in Philadelphia and all of us in college basketball.”
Wright said Villanova will do a “respectful introduction” of Dunphy before the game even though he knows the veteran coach would prefer that no fuss be made about him.
“Just think about it,” he said. “There’s not a guy in college basketball that has been successful -- it’s easy to like guys that aren’t successful -- but there hasn’t been as many guys that have been successful, respected and as well-liked as him.”