By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
1 (Formerly: 1). Villanova (17-1, 4-1 Big East)
Previous week: W 88-75 vs. Xavier, W 62-47 @ Pennsylvania
Upcoming week: Monday @ Georgetown, Sunday vs. Creighton
Read our full coverage of the Wildcats’ win over Xavier here. Things went a little differently in their weekend game against Penn in a sold-out Palestra. The Quakers were determined to prevent Villanova from doing much damage from the perimeter, and succeeded in holding the Cats to an 6-18 mark from behind the arc. Fortunately for Jay Wright’s team, they now have an option on the inside they can turn to in such times. After a pair of quiet games, Daniel Ochefu went off for a career-high 21 points and 10 rebounds. With Penn still down just 1 point with 10 minutes remaining, Ochefu played a big role in a 21-6 Villanova surge to pull away. If you focus on double-teaming Ochefu, the Cats bury you from deep, but he’s now able to score in one-on-one situations; that’s what makes Villanova such a tough team right now. The win completed Villanova’s second consecutive undefeated run through Big 5 play.
The Wildcats have a difficult road test Monday night against an always dangerous Georgetown team, not even factoring in the team bus breaking down on the way to DC Sunday. The Hoyas are led by the strong all-around play of D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who averages 14.9 points, 4,2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. Georgetown’s only home loss this season came against Kansas. Then, Villanova will look to avenge themselves against Creighton, who served the Cats their only two losses in regular season conference play last year. Without star Doug McDermott around, the Blue Jays have struggled to an 0-6 start in the Big East this season.
2 (2). Temple (12-7, 3-3 AAC)
Previous week: L 60-55 vs. SMU, L 84-53 @ Cincinnati
Upcoming week: Thursday vs. South Florida
After their 6-game winning streak was snapped last weekend in the loss to Tulsa, the Owls were looking to get things back on track. Instead, the defeats are beginning to snowball as Temple experienced two bad losses to SMU and Cincinnati. Against the Mustangs, Will Cummings fought through a leg injury to play 27 minutes off the bench, but was ineffective with just 1 point. Still, behind good offensive efforts from Jesse Morgan (15 points) and Quenton DeCosey (13 points), the Owls led by 13 points early in the second half.
However, Coach Larry Brown wasn’t the only member of the Mustangs making a successful return to Philadelphia, as Philly native and former Villanova transfer Markus Kennedy came off the bench to drop a game-high 21 points. Kennedy was pivotal in the second-half run as SMU chipped away at the Temple lead and eventually took the lead themselves with 2 minutes remaining. The Owls couldn’t get a stop down the stretch as the Mustangs pulled off the comeback.
Things got worse over the weekend for the Owls, specifically in the second half against the Bearcats. After leading by just one at halftime, Cincinnati did anything they wanted to offensively from then on, hitting 20-26 shots and 7-10 from three in the second half. A 25-4 Cincinnati run knocked the Owls out of any contention. Jesse Morgan once again led the way with 15 points, with freshman big man Obi Enechionyia adding a career-high 14 points off the bench. Temple clearly missed the strong on-ball defense of Cummings, who sat this game out after trying to play through the leg injury against SMU. The Owls will try to break a now-3-game losing streak this week against a South Florida team just 1-4 in conference play.
3 (3). La Salle (10-8, 2-3 A-10)
Previous week: L 61-50 @ Dayton, W 60-49 vs. Fordham
Upcoming week: Thursday @ Rhode Island
Coming off their first conference win of the season against George Washington, La Salle looked to pull the upset against a Dayton that still sits undefeated in A-10 play. Despite not having a player taller than 6’6″, the Flyers still out-rebounded the Explorers 31-30; it was not the most dominating performance from the big man pairing of Steve Zack and Jerrell Wright. Still, La Salle led by 2 at halftime, but things fell apart in the second half with Scoochie Smith scoring all 16 of his points after the break. A 13-4 Dayton run gave the Flyers a comfortable lead from which the Explorers would never again threaten. Jordan Price led La Salle with both 13 points and 7 rebounds, but shot just 5-14 and turned the ball over 5 times.
The Explorers turned things around in their next game against a Fordham team that sits in last place in the conference. La Salle jumped out to a 14-0 lead, and while Fordham closed to within 5 points late in the first half, the Explorers held a double-digit advantage for the majority of the second half with the game never really being in question. The Explorers defense hounded the Rams on the perimeter, as Fordham shot just 3-26 from behind the arc. Price was high man once again for La Salle, scoring 15 points, but turnovers were once again a concern for him as he gave the ball up 6 times. As we saw against Dayton, those giveaways hurt you against a better opponent. La Salle has just one game in the upcoming week, against a Rhode Island team they defeated twice in close contests a year ago.
4 (4). Saint Joseph’s (7-9, 1-4 A-10)
Previous week: W 66-55 vs. Fordham, L 70-61 @ St. Bonaventure
Upcoming week: Wednesday vs. Massachusetts, Saturday vs. Pennsylvania (neutral)
In a contest between two teams still winless in conference play, the Hawks tamed the Rams to break their 4-game losing streak. St. Joe’s led the game by just 3 points with a little under 3 minutes remaining, but back-to-back threes from DeAndre Bembry and Chris Wilson sealed the win for the Hawks. Wilson was the go-to-guy offensively all game, hitting 5 of 9 threes on his way to a career-high 23 points.
Unfortunately for Hawks fans, the team did not have the same late-game fortune Sunday at St. Bonaventure. After an Isaiah Miles three-pointer brought the Hawks to within 3 points with just outside of 2 minutes remaining, the Bonnies did a great job converting at the foul line to hold off St. Joe’s. St. Bonaventure made all 8 of their free throws in the final minutes, halting the St. Joe’s comeback effort and wasting a career game from DeAndre Bembry. Bembry finished with a career-high 27 points, hitting 6 of 9 shots from behind the arc and even blocking 3 St. Bonaventure shots. It’s safe to say the sophomore star has shaken off his early season funk, now with averages of 15.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. They’ll need him to keep carrying the load if the Hawks are going to make a climb up the A-10 standings.
5 (5). Pennsylvania (4-9, 0-1 Ivy)
Previous week: W 67-56 @ Niagara, L 62-47 vs. Villanova
Upcoming week: Wednesday vs. Monmouth, Saturday vs. St. Joe’s (neutral)
The Quakers snapped a 3-game losing streak behind a strong second-half run against Niagara. Penn trailed by one point a few minutes into the frame, but went on a 16-5 run sparked by Tony Hicks, who scored or assisted on 9 of those points. Hicks finished the contests with game-highs of 18 points and 5 assists. It was a strong defensive outing for the Quakers, who held the Purple Eagles to 32.1% shooting from the field and 4-17 from behind the arc. That perimeter defense played a big role in their remaining competitive in their next game on Saturday.
Penn gave Villanova all they could handle, led by a tremendous performance from freshman Antonio Woods. Woods set a career-high with 18 points, hitting 3-5 from downtown, with two of those threes each bringing the Quakers back within one point of the Wildcats in the second half. Unfortunately, Woods didn’t have a lot of help on the perimeter, as Penn shot 0-8 from three aside from Woods. Fellow freshman Mike Auger also had a strong effort, recording 8 points and a team-high 9 rebounds off the bench. It’s a good sign that Penn’s young freshman didn’t shrink from the moment, and they could have won the game if not for the 17-6 turnover disparity in favor of the Wildcats.
The Quakers finish off their non-conference schedule this week with games against Monmouth and St. Joe’s at the Palestra. Penn is still looking for its first Big 5 win since defeating the Hawks during the 2011-12. If they bring a similar level of play to their effort against Villanova, they’ll have a real shot.
6 (6). Drexel (4-13, 2-4 CAA)
Previous week: L 54-35 vs. James Madison, W 66-62 @ Delaware
Upcoming week: Wednesday @ Hofstra, Saturday vs. College of Charleston
Catch up on our recap of the Dragons’ brickfest against James Madison here. Fortunately for fans of Drexel and offense in general, the Dragons provided more excitement in Saturday’s win over rival Delaware. Damion Lee had his first double-double of the season, tallying a game-high 17 points and 11 rebounds. Lee didn’t have his best shooting performance, but made all 11 of his free throw attempts. Tavon Allen added 13 points on 5-10 shooting, just the second time he has shot 50% or better from the field in a game this season.
After dealing with an illness earlier in the week that limited him in the James Madison game, Tyshawn Myles bounced back in a big way. Myles recorded his first career double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds off the bench, providing a huge boost for a Dragons team looking for other guys besides Lee to step up. The Dragons nearly let a double-digit halftime lead slip away, with the Blue Hens cutting the deficit to 2 in the final minute. However, Drexel forced missed shots by Delaware on their final two possessions to hold on for their second conference win of the year.
The performance against the Blue Hens needs to be the baseline for the Dragons going forward, especially in a tough road match against a Hofstra team that is one of the highest scoring teams in the nation (19th at 79.1 points per game). The following game against the College of Charleston should provide a better opportunity for a victory, as the Cougars have started 1-5 in conference play and is missing 3rd-leading scorer Anthony Stitt due to a knee injury.