Content to simply outscore opponents in its previous two games, third-ranked Villanova ran into Temple's defensive buzz saw today and later could only watch as the Owls' student section poured onto the Liacouras Center court in celebration.
In a game that showed yet again that anything can happen when two Big Five teams get together, the Owls rode their defense and lights-out second-half shooting from Juan Fernandez and Ryan Brooks to stun the Wildcats, 75-65, before 8,449 eye-rubbing spectators.
Temple (8-2 overall, 1-0 City Series) handed Villanova (9-1, 3-1) only its second defeat in its last 23 Big Five games and kept the Cats from posting a four-game sweep for the second straight year. The Owls defeated a top-10 opponent at home for the second time in as many seasons, having knocked off No. 8 Tennessee a year ago to the day.
In holding the Wildcats to a season low for points, the Owls limited Nova to 38 percent shooting in the second half while knocking down 64 percent of their attempts from the field.
Fernandez, a sophomore guard from Argentina, scored a career-high 33 points. He had seven three-pointers in nine tries and made 6 of 7 shots overall in the second half.
"He was unconscious today," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "We're not going to win a game like that without terrific play from a number of guys. Juan was exceptional, and that's what you need because that's a really good basketball team."
The exceptional for Temple also included Brooks, who was 6 of 9 in the final 20 minutes and added 20 points, and Lavoy Allen, who had 10 points and 17 rebounds and anchored the Owls' defense.
"I think it was my turn," Fernandez said. "The next game it might be Lavoy or Brooks. Today we were pretty smart looking to who was hot. I got some pretty good shots."
Conversely, the defense for the Wildcats was not so hot. Villanova had allowed 86 points to Maryland and 87 to St. Joseph's in its previous two games but scored 95 and 97. But there was no such explosion today, and the Wildcats' defense couldn't shut down the Owls.
"It hasn't been too good the last couple of games," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "When you're winning games, no one asks you what you need to work on. But we've been giving up points and we really have to get better defensively. But you've got to give them credit."
Scottie Reynolds led the Cats with 23 points, but the Owls did a fine job bottling up Villanova's three-point shooters. Taylor King, who entered the game with a team-high 21 treys, did not take a single shot in the second half.
"He certainly was a point of interest for our defense," Dunphy said. "I was happy with how we played him."
The Wildcats appeared as if they were going to run Temple out of its own arena in the first half. Reynolds scored five points in a quick 10-0 run, and a basket by Antonio Pena put 'Nova up by 35-21 with 4 minutes, 11 seconds left until halftime.
Dunphy called two time-outs 11 seconds apart.
"I'd like to say I told them something really profound," he said, "but it was just dropping a couple of [obscenities] and saying, 'What are we doing? What are we thinking about here?' "
The Owls got the message. The Wildcats didn't score another basket for more than eight minutes. Temple closed to within 37-31 at halftime, then scored the first 11 points of the second half to take a 42-37 lead with just under 17 minutes remaining.
It was uphill from there for Villanova. Trailing by 63-61 with 4:27 to play, the Wildcats had a chance to tie or take the lead, but Reynolds was called for traveling. Fernandez answered with a three-ball, Brooks hit two driving baskets, and the Owls secured the win from the free-throw line.
"I don't think it was an upset," Wright said. "They're a really good team."