NCAA

Villanova set to renew old-school rivalry with UConn

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Villanova set to renew old-school rivalry with UConn

NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor/reporter Amy Fadool and senior producer Sean Kane get you set for all the weekend’s local college basketball games with Fastbreak. Friday. Look for this column every Friday during the college basketball season.

No. 1 Villanova (17-1, 5-1 Big East) at Connecticut (10-8, 3-3 AAC), Saturday, 12:00 p.m.
SK: 
Villanova and UConn renew an old-school Big East rivalry on Saturday afternoon, the first meeting of a three-game series that extends to the 2019-2020 season. The two teams have not met since the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament when the Huskies upset the Wildcats en route to a national championship.

While top-ranked Villanova has flourished in the revamped Big East, UConn's basketball program has become somewhat of an afterthought the past three years in the AAC under Kevin Ollie. The Huskies finished with a 16-17 record a year ago and are a middling 10-8 this season. UConn enters Saturday's matchup fresh off a 24-point loss at Memphis on Tuesday.

Villanova, meanwhile, is coming off arguably its most impressive performance of the season an 88-56 drubbing of Georgetown on Wednesday. The Wildcats dominated the Hoyas in their own building from start to finish, leading by as many as 44 points in the second half. Jalen Brunson finished with 18 points to lead six different Villanova players in double figures. They shot a collective 60 percent from the field and 51 percent from three-point range. 

Sophomore sixth man Donte DiVincenzo continued his torrid pace with 13 points on 6 of 9 shooting from the field. DiVincenzo's performance came on the heels of his career-high 25-point outburst at St. John's last weekend, a game in which he connected on six three-point field goals. The fact that DiVincenzo isn't in the starting lineup speaks to the strength of the Villanova program. It's not an exaggeration to say that DiVincenzo would start for 98 percent of the teams in the country.

Villanova's improvement defensively is a welcomed sight for Jay Wright. After allowing an average of 92 points in their first three conference games, the Wildcats have clamped down considerably on the defensive end — surrendering an average of just 64 points in their last three games. Look for that defensive resurgence to continue on Saturday against UConn, a team that has struggled to score as of late.

Villanova 79, UConn 65

Temple (9-9, 2-5 AAC) at Pennsylvania (12-5, 3-0 Ivy), Saturday, 2:00 p.m. on NBC Sports Philadelphia
AF:
 This is always one of my favorite games to write about because of the connections between the two schools. Steven Donahue coached at Penn under Fran Dunphy, who enjoyed a lot of success as the Quakers head coach.

Before I get to the success that Penn has enjoyed this season, I have to discuss the Owls' string of recent heartbreak.

They’ve only won two of their last six games. But here’s the rub; if you throw out the loss to UCF, which I’m sure Coach Dunphy would appreciate, Temple has had those remaining five games decided by a combined 11 points. One basket, that could have been the deciding factor in turning one or more of those losses into wins.

So up next, a tough test at the Palestra, Dunphy’s old stomping grounds. Penn is off to its best start to a season since, you guessed it, Fran Dunphy was the coach. Just like back in the 2002-2003 season, the Quakers are also 12-5 at this point. That year, Penn went undefeated in Ivy play. So far this season, Penn is undefeated in Ivy play.

Yes, they have a long way to go in order to stay that way, but the Quakers are looking like the team to beat right now in the Ivy League. A.J. Brodeur is coming off his best game of the season, a 30-point effort with six three-pointers in the win over Columbia. Penn has two Big Five matchups before continuing league play in February, Temple then St. Joseph’s.

This weekend I think Penn keeps the good times rolling and the former assistant gets the best of his mentor.

Penn 72, Temple 70

Fordham (6-12, 1-5 A-10) at St. Joseph's (8-9, 3-3 A-10), Saturday, 1:00 p.m.
SK:
St. Joseph's rebounded from a pair of agonizing losses to George Mason and UMass to defeat Dayton, 81-65, on Wednesday. The Hawks are currently 3-3 in A-10 play but could easily be 5-1 if those heartbreaking losses turned out differently, which they easily could have.

The senior duo of James Demery and Shavar Newkirk combined for 36 points in the win over Dayton, while freshman forward Taylor Funk added 18 points and six rebounds. Then there's sophomore Pierfrancesco Oliva, who recorded a bizarre but beneficial stat line of 0 points and 15 rebounds.

St. Joseph's should be able to build on the momentum of Wednesday's win against Fordham on Saturday. The Rams have lost four straight games and six of their last seven, generally not showing much fight in the process. Expect the Hawks to set the tone early and cruise to a second straight victory.

St. Joe's 74, Fordham 59

La Salle (8-11, 2-4 A-10) at Richmond (5-13, 3-3 A-10), Saturday, 2:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Network
SK:
Before I get to how this matchup of struggling A-10 teams will play out, a salute to Dr. John Giannini.

The La Salle head coach recorded his 500th career win with the Explorers' 75-67 victory over Fordham on Wednesday. Giannini has endured his share of ups and downs during his 14-year tenure at La Salle. But the bottom line remains; he's done an admirable job in less than ideal circumstances. Any realistic La Salle fan will admit that recruiting is a challenge, something Giannini has dealt with by pursuing a number of transfers in recent years. In most cases, these transfers are Philadelphia kids who are looking for more playing time — guys like B.J. Johnson, Tyrone Garland and Ramon Galloway. It's a formula that helped Giannini take La Salle to the Sweet 16 in 2013 with Galloway and Garland playing key roles.

On occasion, you'll hear or see La Salle fans on social media calling for a coaching change. I don't understand that logic. I continue to believe Giannini is a good fit at La Salle and he deserves the opportunity to get the program back to where it was five years ago.

As for this Saturday's visit to Richmond, it will be a challenge for the Explorers. The Spiders are down this season but have found their footing over the last week with wins over George Washington and VCU. I expect Richmond to make it three straight wins at La Salle's expense this weekend.

Richmond 70, La Salle 65

Drexel (7-13, 1-6 CAA) at James Madison (5-13, 1-6 A-10), Saturday, 4:00 p.m.
AF:
 After picking up a marquee win over the College of Charleston two weeks ago — which was also their first conference win — the Dragons have hit a serious slump and dropped four straight games.

Zach Spiker’s squad is certainly struggling with scoring, but perhaps more importantly, is getting beat on the glass, sometimes almost two to one by their opponents. And any coach will tell you second-chance points are a real killer, not only to the momentum of the game but also for team morale.

In Drexel’s most recent loss, falling 90-68 at Towson, the rebounding differential was 46-25 in the Tigers' favor. It could be a problem for the Dragons this weekend against James Madison.

The Dukes are coming off a marquee win of their own, when they beat Elon in overtime Thursday night. They erased a 10-point deficit in the final 90 seconds to take down the Phoenix, which also was their first CAA win.

A player of note in this one, JMU’s Stuckey Mosley is averaging 19.5 points and one of four Dukes who average double figures. Neither team is going to contend for the CAA this year, but both have shown flashes. The road has not been kind to the Dragons.

I hesitate to pick against them because they win when I predict a loss, and lose when I predict a win. So I’ll go a little reverse psychology and say that they will win ... and I really mean lose.

JMU 78, Drexel 75

Prediction Records
Sean Kane:
15-8
Amy Fadool: 12-13

Temple, Anthony Russo continue winning ways

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Temple, Anthony Russo continue winning ways

BOX SCORE

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Temple quarterback Anthony Russo has impressed his coaches with his big arm and tendency to make game-changing plays at critical moments.

The 6-foot-4 sophomore delivered again in one of his team's biggest road tests of the season.

Russo threw for 300 yards with a 62-yard touchdown pass to Ventell Bryant midway through the fourth quarter and Temple won for the fourth time in five games by running past Navy 24-17 on Saturday.

"It was a fun game," Owls coach Geoff Collins said. "I am just so amazingly proud. Those guys fought back. They stayed together and made play after play after play in an adverse situation in a hostile environment. You just can't say enough about that group of young men who were in there."

Owls fullback Rob Ritrovato tied the game at 17 on a 1-yard plunge within 5:53 left in the third quarter. From there, the defense for Temple (4-3, 3-0 American Athletic Conference) contained Navy's triple-option attack.

Bryant, who had eight receptions for 147 yards, has caught a pass in 42 straight games, which is tied for the longest active streak in the FBS. He also had his first touchdown reception since a 34-10 win at Navy in the 2016 AAC championship game.

"Two years," Bryant said. "The last time I was in the end zone was here. It felt so great. I had a great week of practice. I was doing all of the little things I needed to do."

Senior Garret Lewis got his second career start at quarterback for Navy (2-4, 1-2) ahead of Malcolm Perry, who moved back to slotback. Lewis completed 3 of 11 pass attempts for 14 yards. He also ran for 56 yards with a 1-yard touchdown that gave the Midshipmen a 10-7 lead at the half.

Perry had a go-ahead 30-yard touchdown run called back because of an illegal block on center Ford Higgins.

"I thought that killed us," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said about the penalty. "I know I'm going to get reprimanded. I don't care. I'll take the fine. It was a horrible call. Just a flat-out horrible call. It was one of the worst I've seen in my 29 years of coaching. The guy did not push him. It cost us the game. I thought the call changed the game. We saw on the replay that it was a bad call."

League rules preclude officials from discussing judgement calls, according to Chuck Sullivan, assistant commissioner for communications for the AAC.

Sophomore fullback Nelson Smith had 18 carries for a career-high 108 yards for Navy, which has lost three straight games. He also had a career-long 45-yard run that set up his first touchdown run from 12 yards out on the opening drive of the third quarter that gave Navy a 17-7 lead.

"It was a good day for me, but I can't really be happy when we lose," Smith said.

Last year, Temple held Navy to 136 rushing yards in a 34-26 victory. This time, the Midshipmen responded with a huge day on the ground, running for 270 yards. However, it was still not enough against the surging Owls.

Temple running back Ryquell Armstead was out of the lineup with an ankle injury. Backup Tyliek Raynor scored his first career touchdown on a 15-yard run with that gave Temple a 7-3 lead with 11:31 left in the half.

RIGHT AT HOME

Temple has enjoyed success in the state of Maryland this season. The Owls also routed the University of Maryland 35-14 in College Park on Sept. 15.

THE TAKEAWAY

Temple: The Owls picked up a big win to keep their bowl hopes alive. Still, Temple faces a challenging schedule the rest of the way with games against No. 25 Cincinnati, No. 10 Central Florida and No. 23 Southern Florida.

Navy: The Midshipmen failed to get to .500 with a rare home loss. It was just the third time in four seasons Navy suffered a setback on its own turf. Navy also has a tough slate of the games the rest of the way, including a matchup with No. 5 Notre Dame on Oct. 27 in San Diego.

UP NEXT

Temple: The Owls host No. 25 Cincinnati for their homecoming game Oct. 20.

Navy: The Midshipmen play at home against Houston on Oct. 20 before embarking on three straight road games.

No. 8 Penn State upset in heartbreaking fashion by Michigan State

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No. 8 Penn State upset in heartbreaking fashion by Michigan State

BOX SCORE

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Brian Lewerke threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Felton Davis with 19 seconds left to lift Michigan State past No. 8 Penn State 21-17 on Saturday, making it two consecutive seasons that the Spartans used a late score to hand the Nittany Lions a second straight loss.

Lewerke completed 25 of 52 passes for 259 yards with an interception and two touchdowns for the Spartans (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten), who were coming off a loss at Northwestern but handed Penn State (4-2, 1-2) a devastating blow - just like last year.

Two weeks ago, Penn State let a fourth-quarter lead get away against Ohio State before getting a week off to prepare for Michigan State. Last year, in consecutive weeks, Penn State lost to Ohio State and Michigan State, with the Spartans kicking a last-second field goal.

Davis, who came back from an injury he sustained on the previous drive, finished with eight catches for 100 yards.

Miles Sanders ran for 162 yards and a touchdown for the Nittany Lions and Trace McSorley completed 19 of 32 passes for 192 yards with a touchdown to become the program's all-time passing yardage leader.

It looked like the Spartans would regret an attempt at late trickery.

After a 10-play drive deep into Penn State territory, Michigan State lined up for what could've been a tying 40-yard field goal with 5:19 left, but faked the kick. The ploy failed when safety Garrett Taylor swatted Lewerke's pass away from defensive tackle Raequan Williams.

But Penn State ran just seven plays on its next two possessions and gave Lewerke the ball back with 1:19 to play and he put together an eight-play, 76-yard game-winning drive .

THE TAKEAWAY

Michigan State: The banged up Spartans, still without running back LJ Scott and wideout Cody White, were able to control time of possession and keep Penn State's offense well below its scoring average. That possession time advantage paid off as Penn State's defense looked gassed again in the fourth quarter.

Penn State: Coach James Franklin said his team needed to evolve from a great team to an elite one after its one-point loss to Ohio State. The Nittany Lions still have plenty of work to do to get there. They looked sluggish on offense late, committed six penalties for 41 yards, turned the ball over twice and had no answer for Lewerke's arm in the fourth quarter.

UP NEXT

Michigan State: The Spartans host No. 12 Michigan next week.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions go to Indiana next week.