Jay Wright says the reason that No. 1 Villanova has enjoyed continuous success in the Big Five dating back to the 2012-13 season is because the Wildcats have had "a lot of really good players."
Among all those good players, Josh Hart has been one of the best in that run. The senior and national player of the year candidate scored 26 points Tuesday night to help the Wildcats wrap up their fourth consecutive City Series title with a 78-57 victory over Temple at the Pavilion.
The Cats (11-0, 4-0 Big Five) won their 18th city game in a row, and set a program record with their 17th straight win dating to the start of their NCAA run last season. Hart and fellow seniors Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds did not lose a City Series game in their four seasons.
"It's a lot of good basketball players," said Wright. "That's what any top program has, and we're fortunate to have had these guys on this run, especially [Hart and Jenkins] and Darryl Reynolds. This senior class, they've been impactful since they were freshmen, and they've played with other great players also."
Coming off a career-high 37-point performance Saturday against Notre Dame, Hart struggled at the start against the Owls (7-4, 3-1), missing his first five shots, or one more than he bricked the entire contest versus the Fighting Irish.
He had two points with one minute to play in the first half, then went on an incredible scoring burst that saw him score 22 points in the next nine minutes. He made the last six points of a 9-0 run that gave the Cats a 29-16 lead at the break.
He scored 11 straight points - a run that included three baskets from beyond the arc - for his team in a 2-minute, 12-second stretch of the second half, then closed out his spurt with a conventional three-point play that gave 'Nova a 55-33 lead with 11:55 remaining.
"When I have Coach on me, [associate head coach] Baker Dunleavy on me, and my teammates are holding me accountable, I'm just focused on making the right play," said Hart, who shot 10 of 14 after missing his first five. "It's not like coming off a good game, I have to put up 25, or I have to do this or do that. I just try to have a clear mind about things."
Wright credited the run at the end of the first half with turning the game around. Up to that point, the Wildcats and the Owls were hurting each other with defense. In the opening 13-plus minutes of the game, the two teams combined to make just 7 of 34 shots.
"I thought the end of that first half was big," Wright said. "We did it off our defense. We couldn't really score on them. We got a couple of steals, a couple of turnovers there, and got easy baskets."
The Owls, who were led by Shizz Alston Jr. with 12 points and Daniel Dingle with 11, shot just 25 percent in the first half, 37 percent for the game, and committed 18 turnovers. Obi Enechionyia, who entered the game averaging 18.6 points, was held to eight and turned the ball over six times.
"I think it's a terrific basketball program, always has been," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said of Villanova. "Jay's done a wonderful job of putting it all together. This is a pretty special group . . . but they were really good last year, they were really good the year before, and they're going to continue to be good because I think they have a great leader at the helm."
NBA players in the crowd included former Villanova stars Daniel Ochefu (Washington Wizards) and Kyle Lowry, plus DeMarr DeRozen, Lowry's teammate with the Toronto Raptors, and current 76ers Joel Embiid and Robert Covington.