Temple fell behind early and often in a 82-58 loss to No. 13 Louisville. The Owls surrendered 52 points in the first half and trailed by 27 points at intermission, both season-highs. If Temple is to upset any of its remaining conference opponents, the answer likely starts with defense.
“We just aren’t doing a very good job at it,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “We need to do a better job at stopping people and that’s on me. But is it frustrating? Yeah it is. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t.”
Temple entered its string of five consecutive conference games surrendering an average of 77.8 points per game. That figure ranks last in the American Athletic Conference and 319 out of 345 Division I teams in scoring defense. After surrendering 82 or more points for the seventh time this season, the average is on its way up.
“Just let downs, giving up wide open three-pointers, not helping and recovering on time and getting caught in screens,” junior guard Will Cummings said on what needed to improve on defense.
When asked why that was happening, Cummings said he didn’t know and laughed.
The team captain probably didn’t think it was funny.
Temple continues its search to upset an undefeated team with four-straight contests in the next two weeks. With the final game in that stretch coming in the form of a trip to Louisville for a rematch with the Cardinals, the Owls will need to learn from their mistakes if they hope to snap their losing streak.
Temple allowed the Cardinals to shoot 51.6 percent from the floor in the game. It was the eighth-straight time the Owls have surrendered a shooting percentage of better than 50 percent. In the same stretch, the Owls have accomplished that feat once, and are 1-7.
The Cardinals forced Temple into 11 turnovers and converted them into 16 points, including 12 in the first half. While Temple forced seven turnovers, it was outscored in points off turnovers (16-7), points in the paint (42-26), second-chance points (16-8), fast break points (10-4) and points off the bench (23-7).
“They made easy three-point shots off of the mistakes that we made, just because we turned it up too much,” Dunphy said.
The team isn’t getting the expected contributions from its defenders. Sophomore forward Devontae Watson played 16 minutes in the contest against Louisville. Despite forward Montrezl Harrell posting a double-double and a career-high 22 points, Watson received six minutes of playing time in the second half.
“He’s tough down inside and has a great basketball body,” Dunphy said. “But he’s tough for us to guard no doubt about it.”
Harrell had his way with the Temple defense. He added four blocks in addition to his double-double, with most of his points coming from dunks on the Owl defense.
“[Harrell] was able to get a lot of dump-offs and dunks just from the amount of passing that was going on,” junior forward Anthony Lee said.
Harrell joins the list of players to put up career numbers against the Owls. Three players have posted 30 or more points against Temple, all of them forwards. Of the conference’s top 30 scoring players, Temple faces 15 of them in the next four games. That figure includes eight of the top 16 and two of the top three scorers.
“We just need to get better about preparing on the defensive end and getting stops,” Cummings said. “That’s how we are putting ourselves in holes we can’t get out of.”
Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ibrahimjacobs.