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Giannini: 'We left so many plays on the court'

There are so many ways to look at Villanova's 84-81 win over La Salle at Tom Gola Arena.

There are a lot of ways to look at Villanova's 84-81 win over La Salle at Tom Gola Arena.

You could call it a Wildcats comeback, or you could call it an Explorers collapse. You could look at the fact that Tyreek Duren, Ruben Guillandeaux and Earl Pettis shot a combined 10-for-35, or you could look at the fact that La Salle made a higher percentage of their field goal attempts than Villanova did.

If you are a La Salle fan, you have to be crushed by having had a signature Big 5 win in your grasp - one which could potentially have propelled the Explorers to the City Series championship this season.

If you are a Villanova fan, you have to be relieved at having escaped a test the likes of which many of your Big East rivals would never have dared taken. Jay Wright loves the Big 5 as much as Jim Boeheim hates leaving the state of New York before February. Plenty of other major-conference teams would not have dared played an Atlantic 10 team in their own 4,000-seat gym.

I have said before that I think Wright is the single biggest reason why the Big 5 exists in its current form. It helps that the Wildcats have had record-breaking success in the City Series, but Wright said after the game today that last season's loss at Temple served as a real wake-up call to his players heading into conference play.

So what happens now? Villanova has one major non-conference test left before starting its Big East schedule: Temple at the Pavilion on December 30. If the Wildcats win, they will win the City Series title outright; if they lose, the title could end up split in many different ways.

As for La Salle, they've now lost tough games against Missouri, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Villanova. That is a pretty good non-conference slate, but it's still an 0-4 record. Is there a game left on the schedule that can probe the Explorers' ability to get over the hump?

There certainly is. It won't come from any non-conference opponent, but La Salle could make a big statement by winning one of its two games against Temple this season.

And how's this for a scenario: If Temple wins its first three Big 5 game (including at Villanova) and the Explorers beat the Owls at the Liacouras Center, the Big 5 title will be split three ways.

You can listen to both teams' press conferences in the audio player below. The frustration in John Giannini and the relief in Jay Wright is impossible to miss.