Temple Knocked Off Nova & Changed the Sheets

Last night, Temple Head Coach Aaron McKie and the Owls broke out the 1,000 thread count Egyptian linen. This was after they painstakingly scrubbed the mattress and emptied a few cans of Febreze to counter the lingering stench. You see… On Monday, in a season opening “buy game” against tiny Wagner, Temple SHIT the bed.

After leading Wagner by 3 at the half… Temple was up, at home, by 15 (57-42) with 7:38 left in the game. With 1:49 remaining, Temple was up 8, 67-59. With 0:43 left Temple was still up 5, 69-64. Somehow, Wagner managed to force the game into overtime and eventually come away with a 76-73 victory. Wagner picked up a nice check and a huge road win against a strong American Athletic Conference team.

The sheets were heavily soiled… You couldn’t even wash ’em… Just throw ’em in the trash…

This was not the way anyone expected the 2022-23 campaign to begin on North Broad Street. Plenty of folk figured the Owls could be 1-1 after two games. But nobody… I mean absolutely nobody had the Owls losing to Wagner and bouncing back to knock off mighty Villanova. Wagner, led by first year Head Coach, Donald Copeland has been a very strong NEC program for several years. They deserve respect and shouldn’t be taken lightly. But coming back from 15 down late in the 2nd half to defeat Temple on the road?

Naaaah… Didn’t see that coming… WTF?

Damian Dunn and Khalif Battle in post-game press conference

Next up… Villanova…

Seems like the Wildcats have been steamrolling Big 5 opponents since Eisenhower was in the White House. Villanova’s Big 5 record over the past decade or so has to be something like 73-1. Their ascension to “blue blood” status has correlated with the demise of the venerable Big 5. Most nights, it feels like me and about 4 or 5 of my fellow fifty-sumthins are the only Big 5 fans left.

But guess what?

A fucking classic Big 5 game broke out on Broad Street tonight. The cast of characters was different, but the storyline was very familiar to Ol’ Heads. Playing the role of John Pinone was Eric Dixon and Caleb Daniels portrayed Stewart Granger. For Temple, Damian Dunn did a great job as Terrance Stansbury and Granger Hall was played by Jamille Reynolds.

What a night!

Khalif Battle

No cap (as the kids say), I regret not sneaking in some streamers and tossing them on the court after the first made baskets. At several points during the game, I closed my eyes and pretended that I was in the Palestra with my ass hurting from sitting on 95 year old HARD wooden bleachers with about 57 coats of grey paint serving as a cushion.

From the time I discovered the Big 5 in the late 70’s til around the time Jay Wright convinced Kyle Lowry to go from Norf Philly to the Main Line, anything could happen in a Big 5 game. It didn’t matter what the records were… It didn’t matter what the rankings were…

Anything could happen… Comebacks, overtime games and buzzer beaters were the norm…

Big 5 basketball was lit!

The 3,000-4,000 Temple students that stormed the court TWICE after the game probably would not believe I saw Penn play Michigan State in the Final Four. To those kids, I would be something akin to Commander McBragg, if I asked “Did I ever tell you about the time I watched top-ranked Temple go into the Dean Smith Center, and beat the shit down the legs of North Carolina with a 19-0 run that erased a five-point Carolina lead at the start of the second half and depart with an 83-66 shellacking in front of 21,444 stunned Tar Heel faithful?” Coming of age during the Jay Wright era, the 18-22 year court stormers would think such tales were filled with unlikelihoods and outright impossibilities.

But that was the Big 5 I grew up on… Michael Brooks and Lionel Simmons were the best players in the nation and they plied their trade at 20th and Olney. St. Joe’s guard Mo Martin was as good as anyone else in the country. Jerome Allen and Matt Maloney impersonated Clyde and Pearl for about 3 years on 33rd Street.

It was truly a different era.

Temple, under Hall of Fame coach John Chaney, would routinely dominate wire to wire and you wouldn’t see so much as a high five amongst the Owls. No celebrations… Kicking ass is what they were supposed to do.

You could turn on a Temple-Villanova game and witness Howie Evans scoring 17 points while dishing out 20 assists with ZERO (0) turnovers to lead the Owls to victory.

Maaaaaan… I desperately miss shit like that…

That’s why last night’s game meant so much to me. For one night, at least, the Big 5 was back. For more than a decade, the Big 5 has not been the Big 5. With Wright at the helm, the Wildcats transformed the Big 5 into Gladys Knight and the Pips.

Everybody knows Gladys… People pay to see Gladys… The Pips? Not so much…

But last night, we had two headliners. Just like back in the day.

Eddie Kendricks AND Curtis Mayfield…

The Big 5 was BACK…

I think… Maybe… Kinda… Sorta…

Well at least the sheets are fresh and clean…

As for the game itself, I feign objectivity… I had a lot of favorites on that court… Eric Dixon and Chris Arcidiacono are my young bucks. I am proud of the careers they have put together with the Wildcats. Both were subjected to a rather high level of scrutiny when they decided to play on the Main Line. Both have had to rumble for every minute of playing time and earn their position as front line players in the Wildcat program.

Dixon has evolved to a point where he is a magnificent college player on the offensive end of the court. He is extremely strong with exceptional low post footwork and feathery soft shooting touch. Very few teams will be able to curtail his scoring with a lone defender. His quick 2 fouls helped Temple extend the lead in the first half. Villanova is a vastly different team with Dixon on the bench. Neptune realized this and gambled that Dixon could play spot minutes without picking up a 3rd foul before halftime. The strategy worked. Dixon was able contribute offensively, while avoiding another foul, and helped Villanova claw their way back into the game.

Arcidiacono has had to endure the inevitable comparison to his legendary older brother Ryan. Many implied and some outright asserted that Arcidiacono’s scholarship was some sort of gift or favor to the family. I call bullshit… Chris is a player… A winning basketball player… If we held a 100 meter dash featuring all the players in game he would come in near the back of the pack. If we held a high jump contest, he would finish near or at the bottom. But this ain’t the Olympics.

It’s Big 5 basketball…

In one of the best Big 5 games in recent memory, Arcidiacono played 36 minutes and pulled down a team high 10 rebounds. Because that’s what his team needed. Watching him tough it out and fight future NBA guards for a spot in rotation during the transfer portal era has been impressive. Grown man shit is what some call it…

On the Owls, Zack Hicks and Hysier Miller are my guys… McKie has decided to throw them in the deep end of the pool early in their careers. While their stat lines have not been overwhelming, they have been very smart and steady. These are my young bucks and truth be told, I wanted them to experience a Big 5 win last night.

Sometimes, the Pips should get to sing lead.

Aaron McKie, Temple Head Coach

Temple stars, Dunn and Khalif Battle scored 22 and 21 points respectively to lead the Owls, but the defensive effort put forth by Jalil White may have been the most impressive performance of the evening.

Charged with the task of slowing down the experienced and talented Caleb Daniels, White was more than up to the task. Daniels, like Gillespie, Brunson, Moore and a slew of other super talented guards before him, likes to back defenders down deep in the post and score or make plays for his teammates. White possesses enough strength, skill and determination to frustrate Daniels. He blocked or altered almost every shot attempt Daniels made while he was guarding him. When White switched off or was out of the game, Daniels was much more effective.

Reynolds, a 6’10, 285 lb transfer from UCF contributed a double-double in his first Big 5 game. One of the few players with the strength and girth to effectively bang in the low post with Dixon, Reynolds provides the Owls with a legitimate low post presence that has been lacking in recent years.

My only complaint was with the court storming… Temple has more wins than all but 4 other college basketball programs. Temple is supposed to win just about every time they play a basketball game on North Broad Street.

But I understand… Aaron McKie and Mark Macon are mere basketball “coaches” to the kids currently matriculating at Temple… Not two of the baddest muthafuckas to ever lace ’em up in Big 5 history.

Did I ever tell you about the time…

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