Owls stun Nova No.16 as fans storm the pitch twice

Owls stun Nova No.16 as fans storm the pitch twice

PHILADELPHIA — Khalif Battle got lost in a swarm of Temple students who had stormed the yard celebrating one of the program’s craziest wins in years.

Just one problem.

The smallest of the ticks was stuck on the clock.

Hey, it’s been 10 years since the Owls knocked down the mighty Villanova. What’s a few more seconds?

“It felt like the party had just started,” Battle said. “I mean, they must have fired a shot with 0.2 seconds on the clock. You do that, I take my hat off. But we won.”

Damian Dunn fouled a driving layup with 1.1 seconds left and made both free throws as Temple beat No. 16 Villanova 68-64 on Friday night, sending Owls fans into a frenzy field assault – twice! — at the Liacouras Center.

The 14 lead changes in the second half turned this one into a Big 5 classic. All that was missing was the Palestra.

“Temple was one of the great programs,” Battle said. “We’re just trying to bring it back to that. Bring our name back. It was a big deal.”

Dunn sank the first free throw for a 65-64 lead and Villanova called a timeout to ice the second-year guard. Temple security guards lined the yard in anticipation of the chaos to come – and Dunn delivered.

He hit second, Temple’s Zach Hicks intercepted the incoming pass and hundreds of fans instantly flooded the pitch. The PA announcer ordered the fans to clear the pitch – “the game isn’t over!” – even though 0.0 remained frozen on the dashboard.

It turned out a foul was called on Villanova’s Eric Dixon and Hicks went to the free throw line with 0.2 on the clock and hundreds of Temple students lined behind the other basket ready to sprint again.

Hicks did both and Villanova called a final timeout. The temple players cheered on the eager fans and also tried to keep the peace safely off the pitch. When the game finally ended, it was Temple Court Storm, Take 2!

Temple coach Aaron McKie picked up his landmark win in his four seasons on the bench. The Owls beat a Top 25 team for the first time since outscoring No. 16 Wichita State 65-52 on Jan. 15, 2020.

“It’s great for the players to see, it’s that college energy that these kids are going to play college basketball for,” McKie said.

Dunn led the Owls (1-1) with 22 points, and Battle had 21.

Caleb Daniels led Villanova (1-1) with 19 points and Dixon had 18. Villanova averaged 26 3-point attempts per game last season but shot just 2 of 7 against Temple. The Owls denied perimeter shots and forced the Wildcats to attempt passes into the paint, which they hit with mixed results.

“They did a good job pulling off something that we love to do,” Villanova coach Kyle Neptune said.

Saint Joseph’s, Villanova, La Salle, Penn and Temple have had their rivalry games woven into the fabric of Philadelphia sports for more than 60 years. The Big 5, however, waned in the past decade as the Wildcats became a national powerhouse and the other four teams couldn’t keep up.

The pandemic wiped out the annual game each of the past two seasons, and it was the first meeting since a Villanova win on Feb. 16, 2020. The Owls hadn’t won in the series since Dec. 5, 2012, when Fran Dunphy was still the coach. Villanova had won seven straight in the series averaging 18 points.

The owls hit the ground ablaze for surprise.

Battle, healthy after missing most of last season with a broken foot, hit a 3 and then converted a four-point play for a 24-11 lead. The temple fans erupted.

The Wildcats were out in Neptune’s second game since replacing retired Hall of Famer Jay Wright. Villanova closed on an 11-3 run and trailed 34-29.

Friday’s result tied the earliest in a season that Villanova has lost to an unranked opponent as a ranked team. The Wildcats have suffered the same fate twice before, in Game 2 of the 1994-95 season (85-64 loss to Minnesota) and Game 2 of the 1988-89 season (102-81 loss to Southern Illinois).

The Wildcats played without expected starters Justin Moore (indefinitely, ripped Achilles) and preseason Big East rookie of the year Cam Whitmore (right thumb).

None of that mattered as fans ignored pleas from the AP and danced and took selfies with Hooter after the final horn.

ESPN Stats & Information and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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