The 18-game obstacle course that is the Big East schedule is now upon Villanova, which is sad in a way because it prevents the Wildcats from fully savoring another Big Five championship.
The 15th-ranked Wildcats rode a spectacular second half from sophomore guard Corey Fisher, who scored 23 points, and a defense that held Temple without a field goal for more than 11 minutes to gain the City Series title last night with a 62-45 victory at the Pavilion.
The Wildcats (12-1) posted their third 4-0 Big Five record in the last four seasons, and have now won or shared the last five City titles. Their senior class finished 15-1 in Big Five games.
Villanova coach Jay Wright called it "an honor" to win the championship. But he said he would talk more about the accomplishment at the end of the season, what with the Wildcats' Big East opener coming up Thursday at Marquette.
"The best thing those four games did for us was prepare us for the Big East," he said. "We were on the road at La Salle and at Penn. We played a tough St. Joe's team in here, where they got us down and we found a way to win, and we played a real long, athletic team in Temple."
Senior forward Dante Cunningham said the Wildcats need to concentrate on what lies ahead, and then, "at the end of the year, we'll sit down and say we did this or that. We won the Big Five championship. But we have to keep focus and worry about our next game."
The Owls (5-6, 0-1 Big Five) gave the Wildcats plenty to worry about for the first 25 minutes. They never trailed and held a 32-24 lead early in the second half before going ice-cold, and before Fisher got red-hot.
Fisher, who tied his career high, scored 19 points in the final 13 minutes, knocking down all four of his three-point attempts and hitting seven of eight overall. He scored eight points to spark a 14-0 run that gave the Wildcats their first lead of the game, and they went on to a record-tying 23d straight win at the Pavilion.
"Sometimes you're going to make shots, but that's not going to win the game," Fisher said. "It's just playing defense. My teammates and coaches gave me more confidence just to go out and play harder."
Meanwhile, Temple went through a lengthy drought, going 11:19 without a field goal as Villanova gradually widened its lead. Dionte Christmas, the Owls' leading scorer with a 20.8-point average, hit just one of 12 shots in the second half and finished with 13 points on 4-of-19 shooting.
"I thought we had a series of decent looks at the basket," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "If Dionte is shooting the ball and if Ryan Brooks is shooting the ball, then that's good offense for us. We just did not make shots, and a lot of that is because Villanova's defense was very good."
"It was very tough," Christmas said. "Like Coach said, their defense definitely picked up in the second half. I thought they paid more attention to detail on the defensive end, not just on me, but on everybody."
In the second half, the Owls shot 23.1 percent from the floor.
Temple freshman guard Juan Fernandez, who played for the under-18 national team of Argentina last summer, was in uniform and eligible for last night's game but did not play. Fernandez enrolled at Temple on Friday.
"He's been at all of two-and-change practices," Dunphy said. "But his ability to pick a lot of things up and understand the game is very, very good. So he's going to be a good player.
"I just want to make sure that I'm giving him enough time to get into the flow of what we're trying to do."