PHILADELPHIA — Temple was on a run, and the Liacouras Center was rocking. It was a big game. Villanova came into North Philly last night as the No. 1 team in the nation. The Wildcats had won 21 consecutive Big 5 games—an unprecedented streak in Philly hoops history.
Temple, though, looked like it might give them a game; the Owls are good this season and had already beaten four major-conference teams this year. The gym was packed. Ben Simmons was there. So was Brett Brown. Even the mayor of Philadelphia showed up (that’s Jim Kenney second from left in front row of the above photo).
And, for a few minutes, Temple couldn’t do much wrong. Quinton Rose hit three three-pointers in just over a minute. De’Vondre Perry missed a layup, but got his own board and kicked it out to Josh Brown for another three-pointer. The Owls’ run eventually stretched to 13-0 on a Brown jumper. The noise at the sold-out Liacouras Center was deafening.
And Temple had only cut Villanova’s lead to seven, 28-21.
The Wildcats quickly stemmed the bleeding. Omari Spellman hit a three. Then Jalen Brunson, who dominated the first half with 22 points, hit one. By the time Brunson scored the last points of the half—his fifth three of the half—the lead was 46-29. The game was essentially over.
By the time the game ended in an 87-67 win for Villanova, Brunson had 31 points on 11-of-16 shooting, five assists and six rebounds. And he did it all, coach Jay Wright said, with a viral infection.
But it was not the first time he burned Temple. Last year, he scored 13 points in a 78-57 win. The year before, in an 83-67 win at Temple’s home gym, Brunson scored 25 points. Overall in his career, he’s 23-for-33 from the field against the Owls.
He was booed from the first time he touched the ball last night. A man two rows behind the courtside press screamed at Brunson loud enough for the whole arena to hear. When I turned around to see which middle-aged man was taunting a 21-year-old, he told me to “write that Brunson is a traitor.” So I transcribed his taunts.
- “Fuck you, Brunson. Fuck you.”
- “Brunson, you’re a traitor.”
- “We hate your dad, Brunson.”
- “Rose, throw it down on him! We hate his dad.” (Brunson steals the ball for a fast break layup.) Other guy: “He’s great.” Original taunter: “I don’t fucking care.” (Brunson hits a three.)
- “You’re a piece of shit, Jalen! a real piece of shit.” (This came after another three.)
- “Are you hurt, Jalen? You little baby!”
- “You traitor! We hate your dad!”
Jalen Brunson was originally going to attend Temple. According to reports at the time, a deal was all lined up: His father, former Temple star and NBA player Rick Brunson, would become an assistant coach. Brunson, a five-star recruit, would commit to the Owls. Multiple media outlets reported the package deal.
But Rick Brunson was charged with sexual assault, accused of using the alias “Patrick Ewing” to book a masseuse who said she had previously banned Brunson from using his services. The deal was off, and Jalen Brunson went to Villanova.
Rick Brunson said the sex was consensual, and he was acquitted in a bench trial. He later said Jalen was relentlessly taunted over the arrest, and that continues today: Temple’s student section chanted “Pat-rick Ew-ing” at Brunson at various times during the game.
But it didn’t matter. Brunson destroyed Temple, again. (Rick was in attendance, though Jalen said he didn’t know beforehand that would be the case.) He said postgame that the taunts didn’t fire him up: “It it what it is.”
Fortunately for Temple fans, Jay Wright admitted his junior guard is going to turn pro after this year. He won’t be around to torment them any more.