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Samuels saves Villanova as Massive 5 streak reaches 24 wins

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The plan appeared to be working. Visiting Temple had Villanova on the ropes. The reigning Nationwide champions, who haven’t misplaced a Massive 5 recreation since falling to the Owls in 2012, a span of 23 video games, have been taking part in from behind and struggling offensively.

With Temple placing a defensive clamp on Eric Paschall, Phil Sales space and Collin Gillespie, the Wildcats wanted another person to step as much as save them.

Enter Jermaine Samuels, who got here into the sport averaging 3.Zero factors, whereas capturing 4-for-20 from three-point vary. 

“Our key matchups have been Sales space, Paschall and Gillespie,” admitted Temple’s Nate Pierre-Louis, after Samuels got here off the bench to knock down three straight three-pointers and rating 15 second-half factors to set off Villanova’s 69-59 come-from-behind win Wednesday night time. 

“He was actually the X-factor and he killed us. We weren’t actually ready for him.”

The 6-foot-7 sophomore from Franklin, MA made them pay on a profession night time, which appeared to shock everyone however his coach. “Truly, we have been extra shocked that he hadn’t been making pictures as a result of he at all times shoots the ball properly in observe,” stated Jay Wright, whose 7-2, No. 21 ranked membership has now reeled off five-straight since back-to-back early losses to Michigan and Furman.

“We figured it was coming. That’s how a staff grows. Any individual steps up– or they don’t—and also you study from that,” Wright added.  “Once they step up like that your staff good points confidence. We all know Major-o (Samuels) can shoot. However till you do it in a giant recreation and your teammates really feel it, it doesn’t actually affect your staff’s confidence. This impacts our confidence.”

That’s a scary proposition for Saint Joseph’s and Penn arising Saturday and Tuesday, adopted by a visit to powerhouse Kansas earlier than the remainder of the Massive East tries to dethrone the Wildcats. However so far as Samuels is anxious, whereas his massive night time can’t assist however enhance his confidence, it gained’t change his perspective.

“I used to be simply taking part in off my teammates actually,” stated Samuels, who performed sparingly as a freshman final 12 months, partly resulting from a damaged bone in his hand. “My complete focus is protection, however in our offense, its at all times catch and shoot.”

“I used to be in the fitting place on the proper time and hit pictures,” he defined. “I wasn’t pissed off about it earlier than as a result of everybody else had confidence in me, It simply so occurred I hit pictures this recreation.”

Whereas Temple couldn’t have been anticipated it, outgoing Owls’ coach Fran Dunphy, stated that’s typical of Villanova. 

“These threes by Samuels, that’s what good packages do,” stated Dunphy, after Villanova went on a 12-Zero run—5 by Samuels—to grab a 55-47 lead with 3:14 left. “Any individual steps up that you just’re not essentially anticipating instantly. Samuels definitely did it for them tonight.”

“I believe this can be a phenomenal basketball program and an important tradition Jay has established,” stated the Temple head coach, who obtained one other heat ovation from the gang earlier than the sport and was later extolled by Wright as “an instance for everybody throughout the nation.”

Whereas Wright would reasonably deal with the subsequent process at hand than any of that, he concedes these video games do have worth. 

“What’s nice about Massive 5 video games is you by no means know what’s going to occur,” stated Wright. “You’re going in opposition to groups that know you properly and train you the way good coaches are going to organize for you.”

“These video games at all times put together us for the Massive East,” he added. “That’s why we love taking part in them.”

Nothing private, Jay. However having now gone down 24 straight—and possibly counting—occasions to those Wildcats, the love from the remainder of the town can’t be mutual.

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