Anthony Bellino (Bellino_Anthony)
Temple is set to put their undefeated record on the line in their biggest test of the season thus far. The Owls (5-0) will travel to The Pavilion to take on Big 5 rival Villanova (4-3) at 9 p.m. on ESPN2.
The first Big 5 game of the year for the Owls brings several major storylines heading into a big week of non-conference games. Senior swingman Scootie Randall will return to the Big 5 stage after missing all of last season. The last time Randall played at the Pavilion, Temple came in ranked No. 25 and Villanova was ranked No. 8; Randall had 11 points and three assists in a losing effort. He comes into this contest averaging a team high 15.8 points per game. The senior wants nothing more than to be a part of the first Temple team to win at The Pavilion since 1990.
“That’s probably the biggest game of our careers this year, I think it’s going to be a great atmosphere,” Randall said at Temple’s practice on Tuesday. “We’re playing at their home so they’re going to be juiced up, those guys are just coming off a win and we got great success so far so I think it’s going to be a well played game.”
This will be the Owls first road game where they can expect an overwhelming atmosphere. The fans at The Pavilion Wednesday night will want nothing more than to see their inner-city rivals leave with a loss under their belts. The environment will be raucous and just another thing the Owls will have to deal with if they want to keep their unblemished record.
(Wildcats Ready: For the Villanova take on this matchup, read Andy Edwards’ feature here)
“It seems like it’s an old building so it’s always loud, it’s always rocking and I think they use that to their advantage,” Randall said of Villanova’s home court advantage. “So as a program going in there not really used to that each and every game I think we got to come together as one and I think with the atmosphere it’s just going to be amazing.”
Three of Temple’s key bench players–senior forward Jake O’Brien, junior guard Dalton Pepper and freshman guard Quenton DeCosey–will be making their Big 5 debuts. The Owls’ bench has shown flashes of what they were projected to be in the preseason; playing at Villanova will provide Pepper, DeCosey, O’Brien and senior guard T.J. DiLeo an opportunity to show the nation how deep this bench is.
“I’m excited, the Big 5 is a big tradition, two great programs in Temple and Villanova so I’m just really excited to go out and compete for Temple,” O’Brien told CoBL. “It’s going to be nuts, I’ve actually played at the Pavilion before, it’s going to be fun, this is why we all play college basketball it’s for games like this.”
Possibly the biggest storyline, both figuratively and literally will be the battle in the paint between sophomore center Anthony Lee of Temple who comes into the game averaging 10.2 points and 7.2 rebounds and senior center Mouphtaou Yarou of Villanova. In Temple’s 70-62 victory over Wagner on Saturday, Lee found himself in early foul trouble and was not much of a factor, allowing Wagner to out-rebound Temple on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
If Lee has to go to the bench early, Yarou could be in for a big night. The senior comes into the contest averaging 9.0 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Yarou is also listed at 6-foot-10 and 255 pounds giving him a distinct size advantage over Lee who is listed at 6-foot-9 and 235 pounds.
It will be interesting to see how Lee and senior forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson deal with Villanova’s height. Against Vanderbilt, the Wildcats started the 6-10 Yarou alongside 6-foot-11 Maurice Sutton. Sutton only played nine minutes in the road win, but that height could cause problems for the Owls.
“It’s very important, but there’s no assurance that (Lee) isn’t going to get in foul trouble against those guys as well,” Dunphy said of the importance to keeping Lee on the floor. “That’s one of the things that Anthony’s trying to guard against, if he’s in the right spot all the time he’s less likely to get a foul called on him.”
Temple got a big performance form senior guard Khalif Wyatt against Wagner; he broke out for 26 points, possibly more important than scoring Wyatt comes into the Villanova game averaging a team high 5.0 assists per game.
Wyatt, Dileo and sophomore guard Will Cummings will have their hands full on the defensive end covering freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono. Arcidiacono comes into the game averaging 12.9 points and 4.4 assists per game, both team highs. The freshman is also averaging 35.1 minutes per game, so Temple won’t get much of a break from worrying about him. If Temple wants to win, forcing Arcidiacono into turnovers and not giving him easy buckets is the key.
“I think Ryan is a very good player, he’s talented, he’s a tough kid, he makes shots,” Dunphy said. “He’s an emotional leader for them so he’s a really good basketball player.”