By Ed Benkin
VILLANOVA, Pa., (CBS) — It’s easy to throw out the records whenever two city teams meet in a Big 5 battle. Villanova has made it clear that Saturday’s showdown with Temple is no exception.
Villanova and Temple will do battle at the Liacouras Center. The Wildcats are 18-2 and ranked ninth in the country. The Owls are 6-13 and have lost eight of their last nine games. However, Wildcats coach Jay Wright says the Owls are much better than their record indicates.
“They’re just getting better every game,” said Wright. “It doesn’t always show with a win, but they played great against Cincinnati and played great against Rutgers. They’re really starting to play good basketball.”
Wright knows his team will have its hands full with Temple Guard Dalton Pepper. The Owls sharpshooter has scored 53 points over his last two games. Villanova Guard Ryan Arcidiacono is very familiar with Pepper.
“He’s been great,” Arcidiacono said. “It just reminds me of when he played at Pennsbury back in his high school days. I played against him a couple of times. He’s been doing really well and he’s been having a great year.”
The Wildcats have won two in a row after losing to Creighton on January 20. Arcidiacono says picking up two road victories in the Big East provided a huge boost for the Wildcats.
“This conference is one of the best conferences in the country,” said Arcidiacono. “Just going on the road after the Creighton game and to beat Marquette and Georgetown was a great feeling. We stuck together throughout the whole week.”
Villanova is used to dealing with hostile crowds on the road and despite a much shorter trip on Saturday, Wright is expecting the Temple fans to be extremely vocal come tip-off time.
“There is nothing like playing in Philadelphia on the road,” Wright said. “Temple’s always a tough place to play, although we have had some good experiences. That’s the good thing about playing this game later. We’ve already played some tough road games.”
The Owls and Wildcats will get underway at 4pm Saturday.