Philadelphia, PA – Villanova junior guard Jalen Brunson scored a season-high 31 points as No. 1 ranked Villanova toppled Temple 87-67, clinching the de facto Big Five title. Brunson, whose father Rick is a Temple Hall of Famer and the 18th leading scorer in school history, hit 6-of-10 from deep to go along with five assists and six rebounds.
The 6-3 point guard is a below the rim athlete with a quick first step and high IQ (he has a 4 to 1 assist to turnover ratio on the year). While not explosive, Brunson’s handle and strength allows him to get into the lane and finish at the rim. Despite a lack of next level athleticism, Brunson’s decision making and range should help him find his way onto an NBA roster.
While Brunson will most likely play through all four years, another Wildcat might want to make the jump this offseason. Junior forward Mikal Bridges has entered into the lottery discussion with a number of impressive performances this year, most notably a 28 point game at MSG against nationally ranked Gonzaga. The 6-7 junior with a 7-0 wingspan shot just 3-of-10 from the field against Temple, but displayed his athleticism and length with several impressive blocks and steals. Bridges shot has significantly improved from last year and he is shooting 46 percent from 3 on the season.
Along with Brunson, Villanova redshirt freshman Omari Spellman also scored a season-best 27 points. The 6-10 forward was unconscious from the field, making 11-of-14 attempts including 4-of-7 from deep. Spellman, who missed last year due to academic issues, is clearly worth the wait. Big-bodied but agile, Spellman has a feathery stroke that compliments his inside-out game. The only major question mark is his athletic ability which might be tied to his physical appearance. Spellman looks like he spent his redshirt year cutting weight and showed an impressive motor on the glass.
Other Wildcats that impressed were Donte DiVincenzo and Eric Paschall. DiVincenzo added 12 points off the bench. The uber-athletic 6-4” sophomore is Villanova’s x-factor, able to rebound with bigs and cover guards and forwards. Paschall a junior transfer from Fordham, might be ‘Nova’s best athlete, scoring all six of his points on powerful slams.
For the Owls, sophomore guard Quinton Rose had one of his best games of the year scoring 27 points along with three steals. The 6-7 sophomore’s athletic and defensive ability were on display as usual. But what was most impressive about Rose was his leadership even though the Owls never once lead. Down 25-5, the usually deferential Rose took over, scoring 11 of Temple’s next 13 points as the Owls cut the lead to seven points. ‘Nova never looked back, but Rose saved Temple from a potentially embarrassing result. Rose shot 5-of-6 from 3 and 9-of-12 from the field, displaying a devastating hesitation-crossover dribble into a pull up jumper.
The Owls fall to 6-3 on the year and face crosstown rival Drexel on Saturday. With the win, the Wildcats remain unbeaten at 11-0 and have eight days of rest until they face Hofstra on the 22nd.
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