After an exciting 72-71 win over Marquette Wednesday, the Villanova Wildcats will head to downtown Philadelphia for their final Big five matchup this year against the Temple Owls. The two teams will play on Sunday, February 16th at 1 p.m. at the Liacouras Center. ‘Nova enters the game with a record of 18-6, 8-4 in the Big East and ranked 15th nationally. The Owls are 13-11, 5-8 in the American Athletic Conference.
After losing three straight games to Creighton, Butler and Seton Hall, Villanova picked up a much-needed win over 18th ranked Marquette. Sophomore forward Saddiq Bey and junior guard Collin Gillespie have continued to lead the offensive attack, averaging 15.7 and 15.6 points per game respectively. Freshman forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is coming off one of his best performances this season, scoring 17 points and pulling down 11 rebounds in Wednesday's win. He is in prime position to record another double-double Sunday, leading rebounder is 6’4 guard Nate Pierre-Louis.
Temple has had an up and down season in Aaron Mckie’s first year as head coach. The Owls raced out to an 8-3 start in non-conference play headlined by a road win against USC, who the Wildcats lost to in a preseason exhibition game. However, losing seven of their first nine conference games knocked this team out of contention for the NCAA tournament. Recently, they’ve righted the ship with back-to-back wins over SMU and Tulane. Their offense is led by guards Pierre-Louis and Quentin Rose. They average 69 points per game and 32.3% shooting from three, so the ‘Cats will need to play strong on the defensive end to quiet any chance of an upset.
The winner of Sunday’s matchup will determine who is this year’s Big Five champion. Villanova is 3-0, beating La Salle, Penn and St. Joes. Temple is 2-1, with their only loss coming to Penn. Either way, the Big Five trophy will find a new home, after surprisingly being claimed by Penn last year. If ‘Nova wins, they will tie Temple for the most all-time Big Five championships with 27. This sets the stage for an exciting February matchup that will decide who is the best team in Philadelphia.