DAYTON, Ohio – After being elbowed in the back of his head against Massachusetts in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament in Brooklyn, sophomore forward Anthony Lee experienced concussion-like symptoms and had to be rushed to a Brooklyn hospital.
Luckily for Temple, Lee was not diagnosed with a concussion, and is likely to play tomorrow.
“He looks pretty good right now,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “He practiced a little bit yesterday. We’ll do a little bit more today, and doctors are hopeful.”
The Owls will need him at full strength tomorrow, as Temple is already at a size disadvantage to North Carolina State. The Wolfpack out-rebound their opponents by a margin of 2.9 per game, while the Owls give up 1.4 more rebounds than they get.
“We’re planning on Anthony playing,” Dunphy said. “How much, I don’t know. He hasn’t played. He hasn’t run that much over the last week.”
NC State will be led down low by senior forward Richard Howell, who averages 12.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. Howell has a double-double in half of his games this season, and joins senior forward Mason Plumlee of Duke, as one of two players in the Atlantic Coast Conference to average a double-double.
“They definitely lack in size, and that’s something we want to use to our advantage,” Howell said of Temple. “I think it’s real big for us to take advantage of that.”
NC State’s other leading rebounder is C.J. Leslie. He grabs 7.4 rebounds to go along with 14.9 points per game, which leads the team. Leslie is the tallest member of the Wolfpack at 6-foot, 9-inches, but weighs only 200 pounds.
“We definitely want to be very aggressive on both ends of the court, as far as with the height and size matchup from both teams,” Leslie said.
If Lee cannot play at full strength, graduate forward Jake O’Brien will take his place in the starting lineup. Lee is 6-foot, 9-inches and weighs 230 pounds, and O’Brien is the same height and just 10 pounds lighter. However, Lee grabs 7.0 rebounds per game, while O’Brien gets 3.2.
“We’ll play small if we have to and just compete and battle as best we can,” Dunphy said. “Jake will give us the requisite minutes we need. If we need [freshman forward] Devontae Watson, we’ll use him as well. It’s hard to predict how long Anthony is going to go and how much he’ll give to you.”
Watson has only recorded 12 minutes of playing time this season, half of which came against Alcorn State. The true freshman recorded four points, four rebounds and three blocks in six minutes of action, all career-highs. Watson has collected nine points and six rebounds in his first year with the Owls.
NC State coach Mark Gottfried said that he is a fan of Temple’s bigs.
“Temple’s inside players are probably underrated,” Gottfried said. “I know that their perimeter guys do a little bit more of the scoring, but I really like how these guys play. They’re quick and athletic. They get to the rim. They rebound the ball really well. I think it’s going to be a great matchup.”
The Owls average 34.5 rebounds per game. They are 6-0 this season when getting 40 or more rebounds, and 2-2 when getting less than 30. One of those wins was a one-point victory over Charlotte on February 6.
When Temple out-rebounds its opponent, it is 11-2, with the two losses coming to Duke and Saint Louis. If the Owls can out-rebound the Wolfpack, their chances of winning will likely go up. Dunphy isn’t only focusing on the inside game, however.
“There’s no one specific area that we can concentrate on,” Dunphy said. “That’s what makes [NC State] so dangerous.”
Evan Cross can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @EvanCross.