Men’s basketball will play La Salle tomorrow night.
Temple (11-5) will try to improve its Atlantic Ten Conference record to 2-2 as the team takes on La Salle (12-4) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Liacouras Center.
The Owls are 2-2 in January after dropping its past two A-10 games to Dayton and Richmond by 10 and 11 points, respectively. On Jan. 4, Temple knocked off No. 3 Duke and then picked up its first A-10 victory of the year last week in a 72-67 win against Saint Louis.
The Explorers are winners of five in a row and 10 of their last 11 games. La Salle is 13-5 and 2-1 in the A-10, which is currently tied for second in the conference. La Salle has held its opponents to less than 60 points in six of its last 11 games and is shooting better than 48 percent during its current winning streak.
“La Salle is really playing well,” coach Fran Dunphy said in a conference call on Monday. “Their statistical shooting numbers and their defensive numbers guarding the three, they’ve really done a great job. We know we’re in for a tremendous challenge on Wednesday. We’re looking forward to it, but know how great they’re playing right now.”
Offensively for the Explorers, four of the team’s five starters are averaging double figures, with junior guard Ramon Galloway leading the scoring with an average of 15 points per game. As a team, La Salle puts up about 75 points per contest.
Dunphy said the defense will need to improve and come together to defend the Explorers’ potent offense.
“We need everybody. We’re not defending at a level where we can afford somebody to take the night off offensively,” Dunphy said. “Our defense is where our biggest issues are. If we were a lockdown defensive team, I’d say somebody could take the night off, but that’s not happening for us at this point.”
Temple does have a height advantage against La Salle with six-foot, nine-inch redshirt-freshman forward Anthony Lee, but in order for the Owls to match up with La Salle on the offensive end, Dunphy said the team will need to stick to its spot up shooting, rather than force too much inside the paint.
“If we can get down to [Lee] and he can get a couple of shots at the basket and draw a foul, that would be great,” Dunphy said. “But that’s not going to be something that we say, ‘This is how we’re going to attack La Salle.’” We’re going to do what we normally do and hopefully Anthony can get a couple of second-chance opportunities.”
For Temple, it’s been a tale of two teams so far in January.
In wins against Duke and Saint Louis, the Owls played complete games offensively and defensively. They shot better than 56 percent and held their opponents to a shooting percentage of less than 50. Junior guard Khalif Wyatt was a highlight in both victories against the Blue Devils and Billikens, scoring 22 points and hitting three treys in each game.
But Temple couldn’t carry their successes on offense and defense in their games against Dayton and Richmond. The Owls were out-rebounded 37-23 and allowed a season-high of 87 points to the Flyers in their first game following the Duke win. Against Richmond, the Owls managed a shooting percentage of only 37 percent.
“Dayton really played well. Their resolve was greater than ours,” Dunphy said. “Richmond is a really good team. They beat us up on the boards and that hurt us. We looked at the film and saw how many times they had second-chance opportunities and stick backs that lead to easy baskets for them.”
“We just weren’t able to close it out,” Dunphy added. “And that happened to us a couple of times at Dayton, too. That’s probably the biggest concern I have. We had opportunities to score against Richmond [and Dayton] and we didn’t take quite as good advantage of those games as we did with Duke and Saint Louis.”
Senior guard Juan Fernandez has been an ongoing concern for the Owls lately. He shot 1-11 in the loss against Richmond and is second on the team in turnovers this year.
“When guys that you’re counting a lot on aren’t on top of their game, that’s certainly a cause for concern,” Dunphy said about Fernandez. “He’s a good player and a good guy, and he’s working at it. Hopefully some of the shots that he’s taking will start to go down.”
“Sometimes he’s trying to do too much. Other times he’s getting good looks and it’s just not happening for him,” Dunphy added. “But he’s working at it.”
Temple will need Fernandez at his best to compliment the efforts of Wyatt and company if the Owls want to even up their conference record tomorrow.
Joey Cranney and Connor Showalter can be reached at email@example.com.