By Sally Fahey
Damian Dunn made both two free throws with 1.1 seconds left as Temple beat No. 16 Villanova 68-64 sending Owls’ fans into a court-storming frenzy at Liacouras Center.
The 14 lead changes in the second half shaped this one up into a Big 5 classic. All that was missing was the Palestra.
“Temple was one of the big-time programs,” Khalif Battle said.
“We’re just trying to bring it back to that. Bring our name back. It was a big deal.”
Dunn sank the first free throw for a 65-64 lead and Villanova called timeout to ice the sophomore guard. Temple security guards lined the court in anticipation of the mayhem ahead — and Dunn delivered.
He hit the second one, Temple’s Zach Hicks intercepted the in-bound pass and hundreds of fans instantly swarmed the court. The public address announcer ordered fans to clear the court — “the game is not over!” — even as 0.0 remained frozen on the scoreboard.
Turned out, a foul was called on Villanova’s Eric Dixon and Hicks went to the free-throw line with 0.2 on the clock and hundreds of Temple students stuffed behind the other basket ready to sprint out again.
Hicks made both and Villanova called one final timeout. Temple players high-fived impatient fans and also tried to keep the peace safely contained off the court. When the game finally ended, it was Temple Court Storm, Take 2!
Temple coach Aaron McKie earned his signature win in his four seasons on the bench. The Owls beat a top 25 team for the first time since they topped No. 16 Wichita State 65-52 on Jan. 15, 2020.
“It’s great for the players to see, that’s that college energy that these kids go play college basketball for,” McKie said.
Dunn led the Owls (1-1) with 22 points, and Battle had 21.
Caleb Daniels led Villanova (1-1) with 19 points and Dixon had 18. Villanova averaged 26 3-point attempts per-game last season but shot only 2-of-7 against Temple. The Owls denied shots on the perimeter and forced the Wildcats to try passes into the paint, which they hit with mixed results.
“They did a good job of taking away something we like to do,” Villanova coach Kyle Neptune said.
Saint Joseph’s, Villanova, La Salle, Penn and Temple had its rivalry games intertwined in the fabric of Philadelphia sports for more than 60 years. The Big 5, though, lost its shine over the last decade as the Wildcats turned into a national power and the other four teams could not keep pace.
The pandemic wiped out the annual matchup each of the last two seasons, and this was the first meeting since a Villanova win Feb. 16, 2020. The Owls hadn’t won in the series since Dec. 5, 2012, when Fran Dunphy was still the coach. Villanova had won seven straight in the series by an average of 18 points.
The Owls hit the court fired-up for the upset.
Battle, healthy after missing nearly all of last season with a broken foot, hit a 3 and then converted a four-point play for a 24-11 lead. Temple fans erupted.
The Wildcats were off their game in Neptune’s second game since he replaced retired Hall of Famer Jay Wright. Villanova closed on an 11-3 run and trailed 34-29.
The Wildcats played without expected starters Justin Moore (out indefinitely, torn Achilles) and preseason Big East freshman of the year Cam Whitmore (right thumb).