Jan 16, 2010, 9:00 AM EDT
The separation between #s 1 (Villanova) and #s 2-5 (in some order, Temple, Penn, La Salle and St. Joseph's) might have diminished the excitement surrounding Big 5 basketball somewhat in recent years, but there's no denying the place in Philly hoops history that the entirely unofficial conference has had. With a history dating back to the mid-50s, Big 5 basketball has borne enough rivalries, legends and classic games to fill several books, and even continues today, with games like the "Holy War" between St. Joe's and Nova, and the ongiong debate over whether to expand to a half-dozen to include rising local power Drexel.
One of the signature games of the association came on January 16th, 1966, in one such righteous battle between St. Joe's and Nova. The Hawks were a nationally ranked team, led by future NBA players Matt Guokas and Cliff Anderson, while the Wildcats were considered heavy underdogs. But Nova came out firing, and looked like a sure thing to pull off the upset as they led by nine with under six minutes left. The Cats went cold, though, and led only by one with seconds remaining. Little-seen Hakws benchwarmer Steve Donches launched a 29-footer as the buzzer sounder, and it landed for the win. Final score: St. Joseph's 71, Villanova 69.
The Nova-Joe's rivalry rages on, with the two teams locking horns last December, resulting in a 97-89 Villanova victory. Since the 21st century began, Villanova leads 8-3 in the regular-season series, and leads them 43-24 over all. St. Joseph's, however, is arguably currently leading in the NBA Pro battle, claiming both Magic All-Star Jameer Nelson and Cavaliers playoff warrior Delonte West, while Nova boasts only one current NBA starter in Wizards combo guard Randy Foye.
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