Sometimes, the business side of Our Game is enough to make one start questioning why you even love it to begin with. The recent shuffling of conferences has changed the outlook of the sport. A school's market share is more important than its tradition. Rivalries are torn apart, both inside, and outside, the Other 24. At some point, some of the best the Other 24 has to offer will cross the Red Line and enter the new gigantic Conference USA/Mountain West conference, or the Big East. They'll say "Football drives the bus!" They'll be right. These moves will usually have little to do with Our Game.
However, in rare cases, they serve to make an already healthy rivalry that much stronger. Sometimes, it's entirely about Our Game. It shows what makes those of us below the Red Line different from those above it. Not better, not lesser, but different.
Sometimes, we'll be jealous of those above the line. We'll envy their presence. We'll envy their budgets. We'll envy their ability to have games on national television instead of grainy internet feeds and radio feeds that never cease to buffer.
In a way, our envy drives our fervor. It makes the big game feel that much more special. Those red line games are the first thing we look for. We all feel the sense of pride when one of us gets the chance to remind the world that there's basketball life beyond Big Mondays, even if it is because we'd like to be on them. There's a sense of camaraderie, of togetherness. All of us, each of us.
That doesn't exist above the red line.
What happened at the Liacouras Center on Saturday likely won't do anything to change the off-the-court situation that exists between Villanova and Temple. In the boardrooms and on the conference calls, this will be a blip on the radar screen. But to the fans, the game still matters. It matters a lot. This was Temple's chance to show Villanova that while they may have the Owls beaten when it comes to obtaining votes for entry into the Big East, it ultimately comes down to five-a-side, most points wins.
On this day, it was Temple who scored the most points. Senior guard Ramone Moore finished with a career-high 32 points, making 14 out of 15 free throws, and making shots from seemingly impossible angles. Junior forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson registered his second career double-double, scoring 11 points and pulling down a career high 14 rebounds, despite being undersized for his position at 6'6", and yet being Temple's tallest man on the court for large portions of the game. Hollis-Jefferson and freshman forward Anthony Lee, who is receiving a healthy dose of on-the-job training due to an injury to senior center Michael Eric that has him sidelined for a few weeks, were able to hold Villanova's talented center Mouphtaou Yarou in check despite gaps in size for Jefferson and experience for Lee.
A sellout crowd witnessed Temple's 78-67 win, their 2nd straight win over 'Nova at the Liacouras Center (the last being a 75-65 win over the then-ranked #3 Wildcats) and their 24th straight win at the building, a school record. Temple's student section made their displeasure with the backroom antics known in typical Big 5 fashion, with rollout banners. The banners included messages such as "Villainova", "Nova says jump: Big East asks how high?" and "You're scared to make this a conference game."
The last rollout was arguably the most biting of the bunch. As the students put the game to rest with their "I believe that we have won" chant, the Cherry Crusade unveiled a banner that proclaimed "This is our ciTy."
Our friend Tom Petty said it best. "You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won't back down." Temple may be on the outside looking in when it comes to the Big East, but on the court, there's no backing down to anyone. For all of the political backbiting and lobbying, for 40 minutes in North Philadelphia, there was a basketball game between two Big 5 rivals. Temple emerged victorious. And that's what makes Our Game worth it in the end. That's why we love it.
at TEMPLE 78, VILLANOVA 67 12/10/2011
VILLANOVA 5-4 (0-0) -- M. Wayns 7-17 9-13 23; D. Cheek 3-10 2-3 10; J. Bell 2-3 0-0 4; D. Hilliard 0-8 0-0 0; M. Yarou 6-11 2-2 14; J. Pinkston 3-4 1-3 8; A. Yacoubou 1-2 2-2 4; M. Kennedy 2-4 0-1 4; T. Johnson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-59 16-24 67. TEMPLE 6-2 (0-0) -- J. Fernandez 3-10 0-0 6; R. Hollis-Jefferson 5-8 1-3 11; R. Moore 8-21 14-15 32; K. Wyatt 6-14 0-0 13; A. Lee 3-4 0-2 6; A. Brown 2-4 2-2 7; T. DiLeo 1-2 1-2 3; W. Cummings 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 28-64 18-24 78.
Three-point goals: NOVA 3-20 (D. Cheek 2-8; M. Wayns 0-5; J. Bell 0-1; J. Pinkston 1-1; D. Hilliard 0-5), TU 4-17 (R. Moore 2-6; T. DiLeo 0-1; J. Fernandez 0-2; K. Wyatt 1-5; A. Brown 1-2; W. Cummings 0-1); Rebounds: NOVA 34 (M. Yarou 8), TU 36 (R. Jefferson 14); Assists: NOVA 9 (M. Wayns 7), TU 11 (J. Fernandez 4); Total Fouls -- NOVA 21, TU 19; Fouled Out: NOVA-None; TU-A. Lee.