Jan. 30, 2014
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Villanova steps away from its BIG EAST regular season slate to complete the Philadelphia Big Five portion of the 2013-14 schedule when it visits Temple on Saturday. The contest gets underway just after 4:00 p.m. (CBS Sports Network/560 WFIL Radio/Sirius 92/XM 190) at the Liacouras Center.
The Owls (6-13 overall, 2-1 Big Five) defeated Rutgers 88-82 on Wednesday night while the No. 9 ranked Wildcats have been idle since downing Georgetown 65-60 Monday at the Verizon Center.
Temple has taken the last two meetings between the schools, including a 76-61 decision in December 2012 at the Pavilion.
"I have always said that when we play in our Big Five games in November and December, it's like a Big East game," states Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "It doesn't seem strange to play this now. I have always looked at these games like Big East games. It seems like another road game in a tough environment."
The Wildcats bring a 3-0 City Series mark into Saturday's clash after victories over Penn (77-54), Saint Joseph's (98-68) and La Salle (73-52) in an 11-day stretch in early December. Villanova last completed a perfect Big Five slate in 2009-10. The Owls earned victories over Penn and Saint Joseph's and suffered a loss to La Salle in January.
A Temple win would give the Owls a share of the City Series title with the Wildcats.
"They're good," stated Wright. "They're a team very similar to us last year - a team that lost a lot of experienced, successful players and now everyone is learning a new role. Dalton Pepper is really coming into his own as a leading scorer and they're learning how to play together.
"I've watched (coach) Fran (Dunphy) all these years and he's just building another generation. They lost five guys (from last season). It's just building a new generation, which you have to do sometimes, and I can really see them going in a good direction."
Temple brings with it an offense that averages 75.8 ppg and features four players who average in double figures, led by Pepper (18.0 ppg). Pepper is a former West Virginia Mountaineer who faced the Wildcats three times during his two seasons in Morgantown. Pepper scored nine points as a sophomore in a 66-50 VU win over WVU on Feb. 5, 2011.
"He's playing now exactly like he did in his senior year of high school," stated Wright of the former Pennsbury star. "He was on a very good team that he was the go-to guy for. They were very successful. I think he's comfortable in that role. It's taken him a little bit of time but it's not like he got to be in that role for two years in college.
"I am not surprised by anything I see from him. We recruited him - we wanted him and we lost him to West Virginia. He had a very good game against us at the Wells Fargo Center a few years ago so he's done it already."
For the Wildcats, sophomore center Daniel Ochefu has stepped forward at the offensive end of late, scoring 12 points in the 65-60 win at Georgetown. The Baltimore, Md., native is 18-of-21 from the field (.857) in the last five games.
This will be Villanova's final contest against a non-BIG EAST team in the 2013-14 regular season.
"We know this is going to be a battle," said Wright. "There is no problem explaining that to our guys."
The Wildcats will quickly return to BIG EAST action on Monday when they host Xavier at the Pavilion (7:00 p.m./Fox Sports 1). It will mark their first appearance on campus since Jan. 18 and first home date since Jan. 20.
Note: Wright is one of nearly 100 men's basketball coaches throughout the country that will be wearing the "Autism Speaks" pin on his suit jacket for Saturday's game. Towson's Pat Skerry and Marshall's Tom Herrion, each who have sons on the autism spectrum, have started a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about this disease.
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