No. 15 Villanova beats city rival Temple 62-45

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VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP)—No championship banner hangs in the rafters, no rings are awarded for the sweep.

The only way Villanova is recognized as the top team in the Philadelphia area is with those four W’s every year on the schedule.

Temple is the latest loser on the Wildcats’ run of Big 5 dominance.

Corey Fisher scored eight straight points in the decisive run and finished with 23 to rally No. 15 Villanova to its 23rd straight home win, 62-45 over the Owls on Monday night.

The Wildcats (12-1) continued to roll over their city rivals, winning 18 of their last 19 Big 5 games. They also beat Penn, La Salle and Saint Joseph’s to finish perfect in the city series for the third time in four years.

“It’s an honor for us,” coach Jay Wright said. “We take great pride in the Big 5 championship. In the season, it prepares us for the Big East.”

Up ahead for Villanova, a stiffer test in the Big East opener on Jan. 1 at Marquette.

With the Big East season set to tip off, the Wildcats are hoping to avoid a repeat of last season’s early conference slump. Much like this season, Villanova rolled to a 10-1 record and were No. 17 in The Associated Press’ Top 25 thanks to a soft nonconference schedule before it lost six of its first nine Big East games.

They rebounded nicely to make the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year and reached the round of 16.

This year, Wright and the Wildcats believe this veteran team is more prepared to handle a Big East schedule that boasts seven schools ranked in the Top 25.

“On the road, we’ll see real early,” Wright said. “We’ll know. A road game against a team like that will tell you.”

All this win told the Wildcats is once they get hot from 3-point range, they’re tough to beat.

The Owls (5-6) led at halftime and stretched it to 32-24 until completely falling apart from the floor. They went 11 1/2 minutes without a field goal and have lost three straight since beating then-No. 8 Tennessee.

Fisher and Scottie Reynolds put an end to Temple’s lead, combining for four 3-pointers during a 14-0 run that helped Villanova match its longest winning streak at the Pavilion.

“I was feeling it,” Fisher said. “Coach was just telling me to be aggressive and my teammates were being aggressive.”

The great games in city history are often billed as “Big 5 Classics.” This one was a big dud in the first half with the Owls and Wildcats shooting like they spent their holiday breaks anywhere but the gym.

Villanova went 9-for-22 from the floor and the Owls were 9-for-28. If not for Dante Cunningham’s 10 points in the first half for the Wildcats, the Owls might have been able to build a bigger lead.

Once the Wildcats got going from 3-point range, this one was over in a hurry.

Reynolds hit a 3—only the third in 12 attempts for Villanova—and Fisher hit one on each of the next possessions for a 33-32 lead. A pair of free throws gave Fisher eight straight points and Reynolds capped the shutout spurt with another 3-pointer that made it 38-32.

“Thank God Corey Fisher got it going,” Wright said.

Two-time Atlantic 10 scoring champion Dionte Christmas was limited to 13 points, well off his season average of 20.8. Christmas sank his first two shots, then missed 15 of his next 16 from the floor.

Lavoy Allen’s layup with 14:34 left gave the Owls a 32-24 lead, but they did not score another basket until Luis Guzman made a layup at the 3:15 mark with Temple trailing by nine.

“For them to come in here and play like that in this environment is a credit for them,” Wright said.

The Owls routed the Volunteers only two weeks ago, followed by a respectable showing in a 12-point defeat at defending national champion Kansas and a loss at Long Beach State.

“We have a lot of things that are going to be determined about our team,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “We still have a lot of unknowns in our group. We’re still that work in progress.”

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