‘Cats look ahead to matchups against St. John’s, Temple



TJ Farrell

Even though there are no rankings next to their opponents’ names this week, the Wildcats will still have two tough tests in Philadelphia against two of their most historic rivals. 

The mini rivalry week starts on Saturday night, where a date with the St. John’s Red Storm awaits the Wildcats at Wells Fargo Center. 

The Red Storm have been struggling mightily as of late. Its most recent home loss at Madison Square Garden was by 33 points to Butler, another struggling Big East team.

In their last meeting against the Red Storm, junior Josh Hart and the Wildcats took care of business, winning in convincing fashion by 15 points in the Garden. 

Hart led all scorers with 16 points while grabbing 11 rebounds. Fellow junior Kris Jenkins also grabbed 11 boards while adding 14 points to the team’s total. 

The Red Storm simply did not have any defensive answers for any of the Wildcats in the two teams’ last meeting. The two rosters do not match up well, as the Wildcats outmatch and outsize the Red Storm at every position on the court. 

Chris Mullin’s squad is led by Durand Johnson and Federico Mussini, who each average 12 points per game. 

The Wildcats have won the last eight meetings against their Big East rival, dating back to the days of the old Big East conference alignment. Head coach Jay Wright has an all-time record of 16-7 against the Red Storm, stretching back to his time when he was coaching Hofstra. 

The Wildcats will be looking to repeat their impressive performance against the Red Storm at the Wells Fargo center last season, as it was the last time the team scored over 100 points in a single game (101).

Following the rivalry game with the Red Storm will be a different type of rivalry game on Tuesday night in the heart of Philadelphia. 

The Temple Owls will welcome the Wildcats to the Liacouras Center in a classic clash of two of the top members of Philadelphia’s Big 5.

Behind Villanova, Temple has experienced the most success in the city in recent years, making the NCAA Tournament every year from 2008-2013. The Owls are also the last Big 5 team to defeat the Wildcats, winning 76-61 at the Pavilion in December of 2012. 

The Owls are led by the winningest coach in Big 5 history, the veteran Fran Dunphy, who has been coaching in the city since 1989, when he was named head coach of the Pennsylvania Quakers. 

Dunphy’s squad has experienced recent success after going through a tough stretch of non-conference losses that included losses to North Carolina, Butler and Utah to start non-conference play this season. 

The improving Owls now finds itself near the top of the American Conference standings after beating then-undefeated Southern Methodist on national television. 

The Owls are led by senior Quenton DeCosey, who is averaging 16.5 points per game in his final collegiate season. Jaylen Bond, Daniel Dinlge and Josh Brown join DeCosey in the starting lineup. 

The fifth spot has been a revolving door for the Owls. Local product Ernest Aflakpui from Radnor’s Archbishop John Carroll High School recently grabbed the starting center spot, but a knee injury has kept him limited as of late. 

In Big 5 play, it doesn’t matter who is ranked and who is not. 

It is always a battle for bragging rights in the city of Philadelphia. 

The Wildcats may seem like they do not have as tough of a week ahead of them, but rivalry games are never to be overlooked.