There was no fear in the eyes of Temple freshman Trey Lowe on Wednesday night.
Playing against the No. 1 team in the country, having a raucous crowd responding to his every play, Lowe provided relentless energy to the Owls. The final scoreboard and the groans from the record-setting Liacouras Center crowd undeniably indicated that Villanova had come out on top, but it would be hard to tell if you looked at Lowe's performance.
Despite the 16-point defeat, the Ewing, N.J. native had a career night, earning high praise from both benches after pumping in 21 points in just 20 minutes.
While a freshman coming off the bench for a career high can sometimes be chalked up to surprise, Villanova coach Jay Wright was quick to say that wasn't the case.
"We recruited him too, so we knew he was a great scorer in high school," Wright said after Villanova's 83-67 win over Temple (see game recap). "Once he got it going, it didn't surprise us. We were hoping he wouldn't, hoping he's a freshman and wouldn't get it going, and he did. We adjusted how we were playing once he got going."
The Wildcats were able to overcome Lowe and his 19-point second half largely because of their own freshman, Jalen Brunson, putting up a career-high 25 points of his own.
"Jalen Brunson was tremendous," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "I thought he seized the moment. On our side, I thought Trey Lowe seized the moment. It was terrific to watch two freshmen go like that."
Lowe entered the game with Temple trailing, 31-19, and 4:16 remaining in the first half. For the rest of the half, the freshman became a force, albeit less so in the box score. It took him just two minutes to get a layup and he soon added a hustle play to keep the Owls within striking distance.
With Villanova taking the ball up court, Lowe tipped the ball and dove for it near the 'Nova sideline. The refs called the ball out off the Wildcats, prompting an outburst from Wright.
Early in the second half, Lowe caused an outburst from the crowd.
After senior Quenton DeCosey forced a turnover with Temple pressing, the ball found its way to the freshman, who got significant hangtime on a rim-rattling dunk. The 10,472 fans in attendance responded, thunderously forcing Villanova to call timeout.
"It felt really good to me," Lowe said of the crowd's response. "It boosted my confidence a lot and it just kept me going, just keep trying to make good plays for my team."
After that dunk, Dunphy kept Lowe on the floor for the rest of the night. The young guard rewarded him with five three-pointers on eight attempts, cashing in from beyond the arc to help Temple make a few late runs. The closest the Owls came in the second half was after Lowe drained back-to-back treys to cap off a 13-2 run to cut Villanova's once 23-point lead to 12.
While the Owls lost, the game could be the kindling for Lowe to get going for Temple in a crucial upcoming stretch after he bested his previous career high by 10 points.
"I hope so," Dunphy said when asked if the game could be a springboard for Lowe. "He's a talented kid. The one stretch in the second half, he was terrific and then he almost got an offensive rebound that would have blown the doors off the building if he comes up with that. He was terrific and he did everything we asked him to do. And again, he enjoyed the moment."
After he missed the offensive rebound, Lowe, Dunphy said, came to the bench with a big smile on his face and blamed himself. An exuberant Lowe displayed that same hustle and confidence until the final buzzer, taking one last shot from beyond the arc just before time expired. The freshman shot 7 for 12 from the field and added an assist, a rebound and two steals, all without a turnover.
That he had to wait 16 minutes to get into the contest and put his skills on display made the performance even more impressive.
"The coaches and the players always tell me to keep my head and to always wait for your turn," Lowe said. "My time will come, and they just say you should play within the game and everything will come to you."
With Temple facing two tough road games against Houston and Tulsa in the next six days, this could be a sign of things to come for Lowe, especially if he can play just as gutsy as he did against Villanova.
"I don't think he has any fear," Dunphy said. "He just thinks he's supposed to make shots. ... He's a good player. He's going to be a terrific, terrific college basketball player."