Samuels Stands Out as ‘Cats Beat Temple


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Samuels Stands Out as ‘Cats Beat Temple

Daniel Mezzalingua

The Villanova Wildcats squared off against the Temple Owls on Wednesday night as unlikely heroes emerged for the Cats, helping the team win 69-59. 

Temple, located right around the corner from Villanova, made the short trip to the Finneran Pavilion, seeking a win over the young, developing Wildcats team. The Owls entered the game with a 7-1 record, led by standout players Quinton Rose, Shizz Alston Jr., and Nate Pierre-Louis. 

In the first half, both teams struggled offensively. Villanova led 24-23 at halftime, and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree led the way with six points and five rebounds. Freshman Saddiq Bey shot 0-3 in the first half, but was able to contribute with three assists and three rebounds. Sophomore point guard Collin Gillespie had three points and three assists. Villanova was able to force the Owls to shoot an abysmal 14.3% from three-point range. Alston Jr. led Temple with nine points, and Pierre-Louis put up six points and four rebounds.

The second half was a whole different ball game. Eric Paschall, the senior-transfer who—along with Phil Booth—established himself as the leader of the Wildcats, struggled mightily. On the night, the 6’8” forward shot just 3-15 on field goals, including 0-6 from behind the arc, finishing with 10 points and seven rebounds. Booth, a redshirt-senior, also struggled, scoring just nine points in the contest. Because the team leaders were underperforming, it was essential for other players to step up.

Jermaine Samuels Jr. and Joe Cremo did just that. Samuels, a 6’7” sophomore, had zero points in the first half, and just one shot attempt from mid-range that missed the rim completely and clanged the bottom corner of the backboard. He only played four first-half minutes. Samuels said he didn’t let his early struggles get to his head.

“I wasn’t really frustrated about it,” he said. “Because I know everybody else had confidence in me.”

Cremo, on the other hand, played five first-half minutes, and attempted—and made—one three-pointer. Their first-half contributions were basically irrelevant, and the Cats’ were struggling heavily.

However, this would completely change after halftime. Samuels fueled the Pavilion by cashing in three long range jumpers from the top of the key. He also cleaned up under the basket, collecting two offensive rebounds, one of which he scored two second-chance points on. Samuels ended the game with 15 points along with seven rebounds, as the forward brought intensity and energy in the second-half which excited his teammates and the fans. What’s shocking is that Samuels only played 16 minutes during the game.

“It definitely gave me a little bit of a confidence boost,” Samuels said. “Plus, I’ve been working on my shot a lot.”

Jay Wright, head coach of the Wildcats, said that Samuels’ breakout game was no surprise.

“We were more surprised that he hadn’t been making shots,” Wright said. “Because he always shoots the ball well in practice and we know he can shoot the ball. And we figured it was coming.”

Cremo, a 6’4” senior, also helped fuel the Wildcats’ critical second-half. Known as a three-point shooter, Cremo expanded his array of scoring with two field goals in the paint, using fantastic footwork and terrific pump-fakes. Cremo ended the night with 11 points.

“Just trying to be aggressive,” Cremo said. “And not just be out there just standing around. … Just trying to become the best Villanova basketball player I can be.”

Wright credited Samuels and Cremo for stepping up in the game.

“This kind of play by these two impacts our confidence,” said Wright.

The Owls’ big three put up a fantastic fight. Rose, Alston, and Pierre-Louis accounted for 47 of Temple’s 59 points. Pierre-Louis led the team with 19 points and five rebounds.

In an unusual game that had Pachall bringing up the ball like a point guard, and Cremo using big-man moves in the paint like a center, the Wildcats were able to get the win. Although it may not have been pretty, it showed that the Wildcats’ bench players can rise to the occasion when necessary.

“These two individually were awesome and made the difference,” said Wright.