VILLANOVA (CBS)—Philadelphia lives in that rarefied air of college basketball where six quality Division I teams play within miles of each other. There is no other special bond like it in the country. And every so often, area hoops fans are treated to something special—when two of the area powerhouses are nationally ranked and there isn’t much of a difference between them.

Thursday night presented one of those rare times, when Villanova, rated No. 8 nationally by the Associated Press, hosted Temple, rated No. 25, at the Villanova Pavilion.

What resulted was a classic—with Villanova staving off a furious Temple push to outlast the Owls, 78-74, before a packed and raucous crowd of 6,500.

Villanova’s Corey Stokes led all scorers with 24, including a pair of three-pointers that tied it, and another with 7:33 left to play that gave Villanova the lead for good, 65-62. Stokes came back to hit another key shot with 3:28 left that gave the Wildcats a 69-64 edge.

Temple’s Lavoy Allen made it real interesting by nailing a trey with 2.3 second left in the game, pulling Temple to within 76-74, but Roman Catholic graduate Maalik Wayns closed it out by drilling a pair of free throws for two of his 21 points and a 78-74 final.

The Wildcats now move to 11-1 overall, as they head into the bulk of their Big East Conference schedule, while Temple dropped to 9-3 going into its Atlantic 10 schedule.

The Wildcats’ avenged a 75-65 loss to Temple last year—in a game that had dramatic 10-point, second-half swings.

“This was just a great Philly basketball game,” Wildcats’ coach Jay Wright said. “[Temple] is really good. I think they’re better than last year and I think we’re a little than we were last year. But our size helped us. We’re a little bigger. But both teams showed great character. They took a lead and the whole time we wouldn’t give in.”

The Wildcats went on an 18-5 run that covered the latter part of the first half into the first seven minutes of the second half. The run saw Villanova rebound from a 40-37 deficit to a 55-45 lead with 13:50 left in the game. After a Mouphtaou Yarou basket with 12:42 gave the Wildcats a 57-47 lead, it seemed the Owls were out of it.

Not just yet.

Temple, spiked by treys from Juan Fernandez and Scottie Randall and four points from Allen, surged ahead, 60-57 with 9:16 in the game—capping a 13-0 Temple run. But that was it for Temple. Stokes tied it with a three, and then gave the Wildcats the lead for good with his second in a 1:13.

The Owls had trouble in their halfcourt sets, the result of a combination of Villanova’s quick, double-teaming defense and Temple’s shoddy decisions with the ball.  

“[Villanova] toughened up defensively toward the end, and I thought we made some poor decisions with the ball, but for the most part, their defense was very good at the end,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “If we made one better play at the end, we may be looking at the different side of the ledger.

“I thought we did a number of really good things, and Randall and Savoy down the stretch being a little more aggressive offensively. But their defense in the end was the difference. They really didn’t let us run a lot of offense; we just made a lot of basketball plays. We just didn’t make enough of them.”

Temple was stung by going 20-for-30 from the free-throw line for the game, and the Owls hot first-half shooting, when they converted on 57.1-percent shooting, and went 6-for-11 from three-point range, cooled off considerably, shooting 10-for-33 in the second half.  Villanova, meanwhile, picked up its offense in the second stanza, hitting 12 of 24 from the floor, but more importantly the Wildcats were 12-for-17 from the line in the second half.

“Win or lose, we were saying going into this game that this was perfect timing,” Wright said. “Going into this game, we hadn’t played really well against a really good team. We just wanted to see where we are going into the Big East. We can get a lot better.”

Reported by: Joseph Santoliquito

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