Dec. 31, 2005
The Wildcats opened the season with nine straight wins for the first time since 1961-62 when they won their first 12. Villanova's perfect season gets a couple of serious challenges when it opens Big East play, starting Jan. 5 at No. 10 Louisville and Jan. 8 vs. No. 25 West Virginia.
Mardy Collins led the Owls (6-4) with 19 points and Mark Tyndale added 14.
Ray, Lowry and Nardi more than made up for Randy Foye's worst game of the season. Foye came in averaging a team-high 21.8 points and had scored 25 or more three times in the last five games.
While Foye struggled to get nine points on 4-for-13 shooting, he was still involved by passing the ball around the perimeter and crashing the boards, finishing with 10 rebounds and nine assists.
It's that kind of play that makes Villanova so tough: When one scorer slumps, three more are there to pick him up.
The Owls - who knocked off Villanova by a point last year at the Palestra - were competitive most of the game before the Wildcats took control at the end. Twice in the second half the Owls pulled within 10 only to be turned back each time by a 3-pointer by Nardi.
Nardi - the often unnoticed star in the four-guard starting lineup - hit another 3 to make it 58-41, Ray hit a jumper off a turnover and followed with a twisting, driving layup that put the game away.
With a sellout crowd rocking the famed home of the Big 5, the Owls opened the game giving Villanova fits. For whatever reason, the Wildcats are rarely comfortable at the Palestra and get a tight game almost every time.
For a while, it seemed like this would be another one of those games.
Temple's famed matchup zone was as active and effective as it was all season in the first half. From forcing Ray into a trap and a timeout on Nova's first possession, to picking off a pass and poking the ball free on consecutive possessions, the Owls' sticky defense kept it close while the offense sputtered.
When the Owls weren't fastbreaking off their steals, they tried slowing down their offense with little luck. While the physical, spirited defense forced the Wildcats into one of their worst shooting stretches of the season (6-for-17 to start), the Owls still found themselves down three late in the half.
While the Owls only averaged 6.6 turnovers a game this year, they had eight in the first half and 15 overall. They forced 18 Villanova turnovers.
Lowry and Ray finally broke through, hitting consecutive 3-pointers to help the Wildcats take a 37-25 halftime lead.