Temple Upsets Villanova on Last Second Free Throws


Olivia Pasquale/Villanovan Photography

Caleb Daniels (above) had a team-high 19 point against Temple.

Colin Beazley, Co-Editor-in-Chief

PHILADELPHIA — Villanova received its first dose of on-court adversity of the Kyle Neptune era early on Friday night, trailing Temple 31-18 in the first half at the Liacouras Center. 

The Wildcats answered, taking the lead late in the second half. However, Villanova wasn’t the team that made the final shot.

Temple’s Damian Dunn hit two free throws with 1.1 seconds left, putting the Owls up by two and eventually giving Temple a 68-64 victory. The win, Temple’s first over Villanova since 2012, moved both teams to 1-1 and gave Villanova its first loss under Neptune. 

“I thought they were really physical to start the game,” Neptune said. “I thought they imposed their will on the offensive glass. … They just made it tough for us all night.”

Temple’s students stormed the court twice. First, they ran onto the floor prematurely after a foul from junior forward Eric Dixon before the buzzer, and they ran again when Villanova missed a last-second heave.

“I can’t put it into words,” Temple guard Khalif Battle said. “You watch it as a kid but you never experience it happening. … It felt like a big party out there.”

Temple was led by Dunn, who scored 22 points, capped by the final shots at the line. Battle added 21 of his own.

As in Monday’s opener, Dixon and graduate guard Caleb Daniels were the offensive leaders for the ‘Cats. Daniels led the team with 19 points while Dixon scored 18 of his own. Senior guard Chris Arcidiacono only scored two points, yet grabbed 10 defensive rebounds.

Villanova shot 48% from the field, largely depending on points in the paint from Dixon and Daniels. The Wildcats attempted just seven threes in the game, stymied by Temple’s defensive gameplan.

“It’s one of those things, they want layups or they want threes, and it’s been their strength for such a long time,” Temple head coach Aaron McKie said. “They’ve got some potent three point shooters. So you’ve got to decide how you want to go down.”

Temple opened the game with energy, utilizing a raucous student section and aggressive man-to-man defense to take the early lead. However, Villanova closed the half on an 11-3 run to trail by just five at the break.

“Yeah, we know guys on this team are resilient and have been there,” Neptune said. “We don’t shy away from any of these challenges. We know as coaches our guys are gonna keep coming. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.”

The Wildcats closed the gap to open the second half. Dixon and Daniels combined for the first eight points of the frame, and when Daniels hit three free throws with 10:41 to go, Villanova had its first lead of the night.

However, Temple wouldn’t go away. Over the final minutes, the teams traded the lead 13 times, with neither side pulling ahead by more than three.

Down one with just over a minute left, Daniels went searching for yet another layup but a contested shot rimmed out. However, Dixon grabbed the offensive rebound and kicked to sophomore guard Jordan Longino, who nailed a three to give the Wildcats a two-point lead.

The lead wouldn’t last. Temple scored the final six points of the game, all on free throws. Dunn made the first two to tie before hitting the game-winners, while forward Zach Hicks iced the game with two more with 0.2 seconds to play.

The loss by Villanova is its first in Big 5 competition since 2018 against Penn. It’s also the first loss by a Top 25 team this season.

For Villanova, the defeat is expected to be an early-season hiccup. The Wildcats are dealing with a difficult schedule and several injuries, including to expected starters Justin Moore and Cam Whitmore. 

However, for Temple, it means far more.

“Yeah, definitely,” Battle said. “I mean, everyone wants to beat ‘Nova.”