Temple has been one of the more schizophrenic teams in the country this year that of late has been giving us a taste of just how good it can be when right. Thus, it was only fitting that the Owls’ game against Connecticut on Thursday was a microcosm of their season.
Temple looked beat, trailing by 12 points with six minutes left in the game but finished on a 21-4 run the rest of the way, coming all the way back for a 63-58 win. The win served multiple purposes, putting the Owls in first in the American Athletic Conference, finishing a season sweep of the Huskies, and also giving them a trump card in any possible future comparisons with their league foe when NCAA selections take place next month.
As Quenton DeCosey goes, so often go the Owls, and the senior was outstanding in this one, especially at the end. DeCosey scored Temple’s final nine points, including finishing a three-point play to put his team ahead for good. Valuable reserve Daniel Dingle also played a huge role in the comeback, hitting three three-pointers late on his way to a career-best 15 points.
The Owls have been up, with sweeps now of both UConn and Cincinnati in their back pocket, plus status as the first team to defeat SMU this year. They’ve also been down, with ugly showings in losses to Houston, North Carolina and Wisconsin, plus a road loss at East Carolina just two weeks ago. They’re trending in the right direction, though, having won seven of eight.
Road games against Houston and Tulsa are still ahead, but rest of the AAC schedule is filled with games Temple should win. A regular season title in a double round-robin league would go a long way towards securing an NCAA bid. Of course, Temple could also just go ahead and knock off No. 1-ranked Villanova on Wednesday in a golden chance at home against their Philadelphia Big 5 foe.
As for the Huskies, they could rue this one for some time. UConn still has high-profile non-conference wins over Michigan, Texas, Ohio State and Georgetown that aren’t going away, and unquestionably it has a national reputation, but Kevin Ollie’s team has looked strangely ordinary in an AAC that has been there for the taking. In particular, the offense has bogged down too often in recent losses to Cincinnati, Temple and Tulsa, and given the selection committee’s lack of respect of the league the last few years, there is reason for concern.
By the way: the Owls are not the only Big 5 team that won big Thursday. Saint Joseph’s won at Temple back on Dec. 13, and the Hawks are counting on that win right now as arguably their second-best this season. Every win for the Owls the rest of the season also is a win for their old Philly rival.
- Iowa really, really wanted to win last night. Indiana needed to win. The Hoosiers did, 85-78 for easily their biggest win of the season and just their second RPI top 50 victory this year. IU’s balance was terrific-five players in double figures, no one more than 14 points-and the Hoosiers’ bench was a big difference, outscoring the Hawkeyes’ reserves 28-0.
- Syracuse blitzed Florida State 85-72, blowing open a three-point game at halftime to win going away in a result not as close as the final score. The Orange shot 62% and completed their four-game homestand 4-0, and now get ready to close the regular season with four of six on the road.
- California made something of a statement, shooting 55.7% in an 83-63 win over Oregon. It’s a quality win to be sure, though it still does little to address the Golden Bears’ issues away from home-we already knew Cal was tough at home, so this result wasn’t particularly surprising.
- The first showdown for the top spot in the Big West wasn’t much of a game at all as homestanding Hawaii hammered UC Irvine 74-52 before a near-sellout crowd. Roderick Bobbitt scored 23 points and the Anteaters shot just 31.3%.
- It’s pointless to overreact to a single game in 30-plus game seasons. That bit of reason shared, this has been a terrible week for fringe bubble teams. Thursday night saw VCU with a disappointing 69-63 loss at Massachusetts, while Saint Mary’s lost at home to Pepperdine 69-63, the Gaels’ second loss to the Waves this year. Arkansas-Little Rock and Tennessee-Chattanooga both also lost on the road in league play. UALR’s typically stout defense wasn’t there in falling to dangerous Louisiana-Monroe 86-82, while Chattanooga got off to a lousy start, falling behind by 19 in an eventual 67-61 loss to Western Carolina.
- Valparaiso did not slip up, cruising past Northern Kentucky 64-52 to move to 21-4. The Crusaders showed their depth, with reserves scoring 30 of their 64 points.
- UNC Wilmington has now won 10 in a row after an 86-82 win over Elon. The Seahawks also have opened up a two-game lead in the CAA after Hofstra defeated William & Mary 86-82 for its second win over the Tribe this year. Unfortunately, fans have been slow to return to Trask Coliseum thus far.
- A pair of stunners in the Atlantic Sun, as the conference’s co-leaders both went down. Sixth-place Kennesaw State stunned North Florida 101-91, perhaps the Owls’ biggest win since upsetting Georgia Tech back in 2010. Meanwhile, fifth-place Lipscomb spoiled Jacksonville’s bid to take over sole possession of first, nipping the Dolphins 93-92.
- Montana State nailed 25 three-pointers for nearly three-quarters of its point total in a 101-58 blowout of Northern Arizona. The numbers are just obscene: Tyler Hall hit eight triples for 29 points, Sam Neumann was 5-for-5 from deep, Stephan Holm hit four 3s, Sarp Gobeloglu and Nahjee Matlock three each. Oh yes-the Bobcats also outrebounded the Lumberjacks 45-21 for good measure.
- West Virginia forward Jonathan Holton has been reinstated after a four-game suspension. The Mountaineers went 2-2 without Holton, a dogged rebounder and typically the man who guards the inbounder on their press and who is averaging just under 10 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
- James Madison big man Dominic Cabarkapa is out 3-4 weeks after suffering a broken hand in practice. The 6-foot-10 junior is the Dukes’ third-leading scorer at 10.0 ppg, but JMU (19-7 overall) was able to tough out a 56-52 win over College of Charleston last night.
Tonight’s Menu: A night that typically belongs to the Ivy League and MAAC also includes some important Pac-12 and Atlantic 10 action.
- UCLA and Arizona reprise their rivalry (9 p.m. EST, ESPN), this one at the McKale Center, while USC goes to Arizona State.
- Dayton is on the road for a tricky one at Rhode Island (7 p.m., ESPN2).
- Ohio travels to Buffalo (7 p.m., ESPNU) in the MAC. Adding a letter, Niagara is at St. Peter’s and Monmouth travels to Rider (9 p.m., ESPNU) in the MAAC.
- Ivy League play is highlighted by undefeated Yale traveling to Dartmouth and Columbia hosting Pennsylvania.
- The night even includes a late snack in the WAC, with Grand Canyon traveling to Seattle.
Enjoy your Friday and your weekend.