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Villanova game big for Temple

A fierce rivalry under normal conditions, the clash has taken on added fervor this time.

Temple guard Juan Fernandez and the Owls take on Villanova on Saturday afternoon. (Ricardo Arduengo/AP)
Temple guard Juan Fernandez and the Owls take on Villanova on Saturday afternoon. (Ricardo Arduengo/AP)Read more

Saturday's clash with Villanova will be Temple's biggest nonconference basketball game of the season.

Yes, bigger than the visit to Texas on Dec. 17. And bigger than the Owls' home game against No. 7 Duke on Jan. 4.

"I think everybody is excited about this game," Owls senior guard Ramone Moore said of facing the Wildcats at the Liacouras Center. "It is a Big Five game. It's at home. It's always a great game to look forward to."

Folks on North Broad Street have been looking forward to this game since it was reported that Villanova had blocked Temple's Big East Conference admittance in October.

Back then, Temple fans vowed vengeance.

So, anticipate an electric atmosphere. Not that it wouldn't be under normal circumstances.

Temple (5-2) wants to avenge last season's 78-74 setback at the Pavilion. Villanova (5-3) has won five of the last six meetings and holds a 44-41 series advantage.

To win, the Owls must find a way to contain Wildcats point guard Maalik Wayns. The junior averages a team-leading 18.1 points per game to go with a team-best five assists. Junior center Mouphtaou Yarou (15.4) and junior guard Dominic Cheek (12.8) are the team's other double-digit scorers.

The Wildcats have lost three of their last four games after starting the season 4-0.

Temple boasts a balanced lineup. Moore averages a team-best 16.4 ppg. Junior guard Khalif Wyatt (14.8) and senior guard Juan Fernandez (13.4) also are averaging double figures. Junior forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (9.1) and sophomore reserve guard Aaron Brown (7.4) are key contributors.

Brown has been arguably the Big Five's hottest player of late. He scored a career-high 21 points in an 86-74 victory over Central Michigan on Saturday. Brown then scored a game-high 19 points in Wednesday's 77-58 win over Toledo.

The Owls, however, are without two injured starters: center Micheal Eric (right kneecap) and Scootie Randall (left knee).