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The Morning Dish – Thursday, January 1, 2015

January 1, 2015 The Morning Dish No Comments

Happy New Year to all! Welcome to 2015.

It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t pretty. It was maybe the furthest thing from pretty. But Temple picked up another non-conference win on New Year’s Eve that could go a long way towards getting it back to the NCAA Tournament.

The Owls opened their American Athletic Conference schedule with a 57-53 win at defending national champion Connecticut. Temple led much of the way, only to see the Huskies tie it in the final seconds of regulation. UConn also had a chance to take the lead with 2.8 seconds left in OT when Daniel Hamilton was fouled while attempting a three-pointer, but-in the irony of ironies, given how well the Huskies shot free throws in last year’s NCAA Tournament-Hamilton missed all three freebies.

Temple won while shooting 31.6%. Let that marinate a little bit. Regardless, the Owls are now 10-4 on the season with wins over Kansas and Connecticut, with a third-best win over maybe Louisiana Tech. Temple’s four losses are all generally acceptable too: falling to Duke and Villanova is nothing to be ashamed of, a loss to UNLV is now looking better and better, and losing by two to rival St. Joseph’s doesn’t look great in the power ratings, but it happens sometimes in rivalry games.

There also is the not-so-little matter of Connecticut’s Ryan Boatright suffering a deep thigh injury late in the first half. Boatright tried to start the second half but left the game for good soon after, in all playing just 17 minutes and scoring two points. Unquestionably, the injury may have played a role in the outcome.

In that regard, this is a loss that the Huskies may be able to receive some relief for from the selection committee. Some try to argue in cases like this that the win should also be diminished on Temple’s profile, since they beat a team missing its best player for a good share of it. Nonsense. Temple didn’t ask to play the Huskies without Boatright. It has nothing to apologize for. Boatright or not, this is a quality win for the Owls.

Wednesday’s action:

  • Seton Hall opened Big East play with an important 78-67 win at home over St. John’s. So far, the Pirates are responding well to being without Isaiah Whitehead, as Sterling Gibbs stepped up again, this time with 25 points and eight assists.
  • The Big East overall had a busy day with five games back-to-back. Home teams swept the day, as other winners included Villanova (67-55 over Butler), DePaul (61-58 over Marquette), Providence (65-53 winners over Creighton) and Xavier, which pulled away in the second half to dump Georgetown 70-53. Great job by Fox Sports 1 of promoting this league with five games stacked up on their network.
  • Wisconsin pulled away in the second half to pin Penn State with its second loss of the season by an 89-72 score. The Badgers just don’t miss many shots at home, and they shot nearly 64% in this one.
  • Minnesota, meet Ohio State. Like the Buckeyes, the Golden Gophers have feasted on a weak, home-loaded non-conference schedule and also have opened conference play with a disappointing loss. Minnesota led by double digits for a good portion of the game, but Purdue rallied for a 72-68 win.
  • Duke beat Wofford 84-55 in a game that actually was quite competitive into the second half. Jahlil Okafor was unstoppable again with 24 points on 11 of 13 shooting.
  • Colorado State got a career-best 25 points from John Gillon and needed them in a 71-65 win over Boise State to improve to 14-0. Gritty effort by the shorthanded Broncos, who couldn’t quite duplicate their football team’s win in the Fiesta Bowl.
  • Larry Nance, Jr. carried Wyoming for much of the game before getting some help down the stretch as the Cowboys earned a tough 76-71 home win over UNLV in both teams’ Mountain West opener. Nance scored 29.
  • Indiana won at Nebraska 70-65. The difference? The Hoosiers owned the glass, finishing with a 44-31 rebounding margin.
  • Lafayette won at Army 92-78 in a big Patriot League opener. The Leopards shot 54.1% and made 10 of 17 from three-point land.
  • Coastal Carolina went to High Point and came out with an 83-68 win in a big Big South matchup. The Chanticleers did an excellent job on Panther star John Brown, who was held to 12 points and five rebounds.
  • Well, that didn’t take long. The Missouri Valley Conference is already cannibalizing itself. Indiana State has shown to be in thorough rebuilding mode after an underwhelming non-conference performance, but the Sycamores picked up a nice road win by taking down Illinois State 64-61.
  • Wichita State avoided that fate, but not by much. The Shockers won at 3-10 Drake 66-58, with Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton combining for 40 points. WSU was outrebounded but hit 9 of 17 from three-point range.

Side Dishes

  • Florida State guard Aaron Thomas has signed with an agent and will not be returning to FSU, per Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports.com. Thomas was ruled ineligible for the second semester after averaging better than 14 points in six games this season.
  • San Jose State played its second straight game with just seven players, falling to Utah State 61-33. SJSU coach Dave Wojcik suspended indefinitely five players-Rashad Muhammad, Jordan Baker, Frank Rogers, Jaleel Williams and Matt Pollard-back on Dec. 13. That quintet included the team’s four leading scorers, and it’s the continuation of what is becoming a miserable season for the Spartans. Starting point guard Jalen James is also out for the year with an ankle injury, and the team had to add a couple walk-ons from the football team just to have enough healthy bodies for games of late. 

Today’s Menu: A limited college hoops schedule on New Year’s Day. This day still is primarily about bowl games.

Northern Iowa at Evansville  The Panthers open Missouri Valley play with a tough one on the road. UNI scored 80 and 95 in two wins over the Purple Aces last year.
St. Mary’s at Pepperdine 
The Gaels opened the WCC with a pair of home wins and have won three in a row since blowing a big lead at St. John’s, but now have to go on the road against a solid Waves team.
Idaho State at Idaho 
The first meeting between these two rivals in a Big Sky Conference game since 1996.
Weber State at Eastern Washington  It’s easy to remember Weber as the team that surrendered a 39-0 run to Oklahoma a couple weeks ago, but the Wildcats have been consistent contenders in the Big Sky

Again, Happy New Year.

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