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Temple basketball wins at Villanova for first time since 1990

TEMPLE HADN'T beaten Villanova at the Pavilion in six trips there since 1990.

TEMPLE HADN'T beaten Villanova at the Pavilion in six trips there since 1990.

The Owls hadn't beaten Villanova in back-to-back games anywhere since the mid 1990s.

And they hadn't beaten Villanova in consecutive seasons since the late 1980s.

But they hadn't won their first five since the epic 1987-88 campaign, either.

So, if there was a time to break those droughts against Villanova, late Wednesday night seemed as good an opportunity as any, since the inexperienced Wildcats had lost three of their last four after starting 4-0. Especially after the Owls (6-0) turned a four-point halftime deficit into a 12-point advantage with 13 minutes remaining on ESPN2.

But hadn't the Wildcats (4-4) come from way back late against Purdue last month in New York? And it is the City Series for a reason.

Well, not this time, in a place where not that long ago the Wildcats had won what seemed like a zillion straight.

When it was over, Temple headed back to North Broad with a 76-61 victory.

Must've been a nice ride.

"Coach [Fran Dunphy] had been telling us we hadn't won here in a long time," said sophomore forward Anthony Lee, who tied a career-high with 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting. "We didn't come in here intimidated."

Maybe that's why Lee had a TU and his number 3 shaved into the left side of his head the day before.

"It's kind of funny," Lee smiled. "I thought coach might say something about it. If I'd played bad, he might have. I don't know."

There's no truth to the rumor that Dunphy is going to follow Lee's lead.

Temple trailed at the break, 36-32. But the Owls scored the first nine points of the second half, and 18 of the first 20. The closest the Wildcats would get after that was seven, twice. They didn't get their first second-half field goal until well after the second TV timeout. And until JayVaughn's Pinkston's follow with just under 2 minutes to go, Anthony Chennault had their only three second-half baskets. That's usually not a good sign. And also virtually impossible. It didn't help that the Wildcats committed a season-high 20 turnovers, although obviously the visitors had something to do with that.

"We didn't look too together in the first half," Dunphy said. "The guys understood how big this game was. It's another step in our progress, a sign that we can play better as we move forward.

"For the most part, we did what we needed to do, especially in the first 12 minutes of the second half."

Scootie Randall had 21 points. Hollis Rahlir-Jefferson had a career-best seven assists. Which meant it didn't matter that Khalif Wyatt went 4-for-16 from the floor. He still did a lot of stuff that has an impact.

"Coach always talks about going out and having fun," Randall said. "We came together when we needed to and got the job done."

Villanova got 15 points from James Bell and 10 in just 13 minutes off the bench from Chennault, the Wake Forest transfer. Pinkston, who's been playing better, got into foul trouble and played only 17 minutes. Mouphtaou Yarou, who had 36 points in his last two games after getting 27 in the first five, had six.

"I think we played a very good first half," said Villanova coach Jay Wright, knowing all too well that's not enough. "I just really like their team. That [18-2 run] was the game right there. The turnovers killed us, as usual [they were averaging 16 coming in]. We can't do that against good teams. It's not [Temple's] size, as much as their quickness and length.

"We made some good passes. We didn't make shots. We've got to clean some things up a little bit. It makes a difference. We've got to go through games like this and learn."

Added Bell: "We've got to do a better job with our decision-making."

They have almost 4 months to work on it. Hopefully that's the good news.

This was, of course, the last time these guys were scheduled to meet as nonconference opponents, since the Owls are moving from the Atlantic 10 to the Big East next season. Of course, the way things are going in the Big East these days, almost nothing should be considered a lock.

Temple now gets second-ranked and fellow unbeaten Duke on Saturday at the Izod Center in North Jersey, where the Blue Devils have had a bunch of NCAA success over the years. You might recall the Owls got the best of Coach K's guys last January in South Philly. It's a pretty safe bet they do.

This was the first of three straight Big 5 games for the Wildcats, who lost in overtime at La Salle on Nov. 25. They'll be at Penn on Saturday night, before hosting Saint Joseph's in that friendly little scrum thing Tuesday.

Did we mention that former Temple stars Mark Macon, Nate Blackwell, Lavoy Allen and Ramone Moore were in the building? Even if they couldn't play, that can never be a bad thing.

For whatever reason, the crowd didn't seem as into it as you might anticipate. Maybe they knew.