By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
1 (Formerly: 1). Villanova (19-2, 6-2 Big East)
Previous week: W 68-55 @ DePaul
Upcoming week: Wednesday vs. Marquette, Saturday vs. Georgetown
After trailing the Blue Demons by 6 at the half, Villanova used a huge second half to surge past DePaul. The charge was led by Ryan Arcidiacono, who tied a season-high with 18 points, all of which came in the second half. Arcidiacono dropped 6 straight points during a 10-0 second-half run that helped the Cats take control. JayVaughn Pinkston added 14 points, going a perfect 10-10 at the foul line. Villanova out-rebounded DePaul 35-18 on the game, led by Daniel Ochefu with 12 boards. With the win, the Wildcats moved past Georgetown back into first place in the Big East conference standings. After hosting a Marquette team that has lost 5 straight games, the Wildcats will look to avenge their worst loss of the season and extend that conference lead against the Hoyas.
2 (2). Temple (15-7, 6-3 AAC)
Previous week: W 86-62 @ Central Florida, W 55-37 vs. Tulane
Upcoming week: Wednesday @ South Florida, Saturday @ Memphis
With Will Cummings back in action, it looks like Temple’s train to a NCAA tournament berth is back on track. After being limited and even sitting out a game with an ankle injury, the Owls have now won three-straight games coinciding with Cummings’ healthy return to the lineup. First, Temple jumped all over UCF en route to a 19-point halftime lead. The Owls shot 51% from the field for the game, led by Jesse Morgan with 15 points, Cummings with 14, and Quenton DeCosey with 13. Playing without leading scorer B.J. Taylor due to a concussion, UCF was unable to mount any sort of comeback.
Then, the Owls’ defense took center stage against Tulane, as Temple held the Green Wave to a ridiculously 8 points in the first half to lead by 20 heading into the locker room. It was the lowest total ever scored in a half at the Liacouras Center. The Owls didn’t have a great game offensively themselves, but with the way the defense was playing, they did just enough to earn an easy victory. DeCosey led all scorers with 17 points, while Cummings chipped in with 13 points and 6 assists.
Temple is back firmly among that second tier of teams behind Tulsa and SMU in the American standings. After facing last-place USF, they’ll have a tough road test against Memphis. The Owls will look to have one of the best defenses in the country carry the day.
— Josh Verlin (@jmverlin) February 1, 2015
3 (3). La Salle (12-9, 4-4 A-10)
Previous week: W 53-48 vs. St. Joe’s, W 66-56 @ St. Bonaventure
Upcoming week: Thursday vs. Richmond, Sunday @ Massachusetts
In the final Big 5 game of the season, the Explorers overcame a big first-half deficit to top city and A-10 rival St. Joe’s. Trailing by as many as 15 points before halftime, La Salle rallied behind senior forward Jerrell Wright to pull off the comeback. Wright tied a season-high with 19 points, scoring the go-ahead bucket down on the block with a minute left to put the Explorers ahead for good. Wright added 10 rebounds for his 4th double-double of the season. Assisting the second-half comeback comeback effort was Cleon Roberts, who scored 11 of his 14 points after halftime and hit 4 of 7 threes on the game.
That theme continued over the weekend, as La Salle initially trailed the Bonnies 8-0 before quickly bouncing back and heading into the locker room ahead; they would never trail in the second half. Despite shooting just 7-19 from the field, Jordan Price hit 4 threes to score a game-high 24 points. Cleon Roberts also hit 4 threes for the second-straight game to contribute 20 points, while Wright added 12 points on 5-7 shooting. The two wins have the Explorers back to .500 in conference play, with difficult games against 5-3 teams Richmond and Massachusetts upcoming. La Salle will have a chance to keep moving up the standings by defeating the teams directly ahead of them.
4 (4). Saint Joseph’s (9-11, 3-5 A-10)
Previous week: L 53-48 @ La Salle, W 75-70 vs. Davidson
Upcoming week: Tuesday @ Saint Louis, Saturday vs. George Mason
Two things are becoming readily apparent with the Hawks: they’re bound to get a dominant performance from DeAndre Bembry each and every time out, but whether he gets any help from his teammates will decide whether St. Joe’s comes out on top. Against the Explorers, Bembry did everything he could in recording 20 points on 8-15 shooting, 7 rebounds, and 5 steals. Unfortunately for Hawks fans, his teammates combined to shoot just 28% from the field, with Isaiah Miles the only other Hawks in double figures (10 points on 4-12 shooting).
Coach Martelli decided to shake things up the following game against Davidson, giving Aaron Brown his debut in the starting lineup. The move worked like a charm, as Brown dropped a career-high 20 points by hitting a career-high 3 threes on 5 attempts. DeAndre Bembry was a force once again, scoring 21 points, grabbing a career-high 17 rebounds, and dishing out 7 assists. The duo helped the Hawks overcome a 13-point halftime deficit and avoid a 3-game losing streak. Their next two games come against teams a combined 3-13 in conference play; now’s the time for St. Joe’s to get back into the hunt in the A-10.
5 (6). Drexel (7-14, 5-5 CAA)
Previous week: W 65-60 vs. Northeastern, W 85-76 vs. UNCW
Upcoming week: Thursday @ Elon, Saturday @ College of Charleston
We covered Drexel’s win over UNCW in full here, which gave the Dragons their first 3-game winning streak of the season and pulled them back to .500 in conference play. Earlier in the week, the Dragons topped Northeastern behind yet another heroic effort from Damion Lee. With Drexel trailing by 10 at halftime, Lee scored 24 of his season-high 33 points in the second half to carry his team to victory. Although he wasn’t as offensively as he was against UNCW, Rodney Williams’ first game back from a foot injury was a big factor in shutting down Northeastern’s leading scorer Scott Eatherton. Eatherton was held to just 8 points, all in the first half.
Although Drexel has two road contests this week just two days apart, they do fortunately come against the bottom two teams in conference in Elon and College of Charleston. With things beginning to click for the Dragons, the time seems ripe for them to continue their climb up the Colonial standings.
6 (5). Pennsylvania (6-11, 1-2 Ivy)
Previous week: W 58-51 vs. Dartmouth, L 63-38 vs. Harvard
Upcoming week: Friday @ Cornell, Saturday @ Columbia
Coming off their first Big 5 victory in years, the Quakers carried that confidence over into their Ivy League home opener against Dartmouth. Penn was carried to victory by the hot shooting of sophomore Matt Howard, who scored a career-high 18 points. Howard shot 6-8 from the field, including 3-4 from behind the arc; it was the first time he has hit multiple threes in a game in his career. career-high Matt Howard. The Big Green did manage to shave Penn’s 13-point second half lead down to 3 in the closing minutes. However, the Quakers held Dartmouth scoreless over the final 1:30 of the game and freshman Antonio Woods (11 points) scored the 4 straight points to seal the victory.
The Quakers were unable to keep the offense humming the following night against Harvard, shooting just 30% from the field and turning it over 14 times in a game they never led. Penn turned it over 9 times in the first half as they went into the locker room trailing by 21 points; things did not get better from there. Howard was the only Quaker in double figures with 11 points, but even he shot just 4-11 from the floor. Especially concerning is the recently play of center Darien Nelson-Henry. The 2nd leading scorer on the team, DNH was held to just 2 points one night after going scoreless against Dartmouth. With Penn hitting the road this weekend for games against Cornell and Columbia, Coach Allen will need more from his junior big man, in addition to better shooting and ball security across the line-up.