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December 13, 2016

Against Temple, Villanova seniors looking to sweep Big Five for their careers

Villanova has won 17 straight games in the Big Five and is looking to make it 18 with a win over Temple on Tuesday night. The Wildcats and Owls, both 3-0 this year against local foes, will square off on the Main Line Tuesday night for the city championship.

For the three highly-decorated Wildcat seniors — Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, and Darryl Reynolds — they have a chance to go their entire careers without a loss in Big Five play.

“We were talking about that,” Reynolds said. “So obviously coming from Philly, it’s nice to have that under your belt. But it’s not over, we still have another Big Five game tomorrow. We just got to keep moving.” 

OK, so the Big Five isn’t what it used to be, with games played on campuses instead of the Palestra and no team popping up as a serious threat to ‘Nova for city supremacy during this incredible run of success for Jay Wright's program.

Still, the Wildcats are swimming in unchartered waters here. Think of all the great players that played college hoops in the Big Five throughout its history. Going undefeated in the city for an entire career hasn’t happened before.

“It would be crazy,” Hart said.  

Wright doesn’t want to talk about the records, because if you have been paying attention, that isn’t how Wright operates. After all, this is the guy who reacted a national championship buzzer-beater like it was nothing. Considering Villanova’s success over recent years, it’s tough to argue with the approach. 

“It’s a challenge,” Wright said. “You hear the numbers around the team and it’s not going to help you win. You got to concentrate on your opponent and get better every day.”

And make no mistake, Temple has the ability to win at ‘Nova on Tuesday. Fran Dunphy’s team features balanced scoring and has already knocked off a couple of Top-25 teams on a neutral floor in Florida State and West Virginia. 

Wright said that the familiarity between the two schools and its players provides a unique challenge when trying to prepare for Temple.

“We know what they do but they know what we do,” Wright said. “And the players know each other. You give the players the scouting report but they play against these guys in the summer, they’ve played them every year before, and most of them played against each other in AAU.”

Every time they have played a college game, though, Villanova has won. Temple gets the last chance to knock off Hart, Jenkins, and Reynolds tonight.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann