Before the start of this season, Fran Dunphy provided a warning of what his team’s prospects were headed into its first year in the American Athletic Conference.
The longtime coach said he was facing the biggest challenge since his debut with Temple in 2006.
“We don’t have a lot of margin for error,” Dunphy said.
Now, as the Owls are in the midst of a six-game losing streak – the longest of the Fran Dunphy era, and the longest for the program in over a decade – that margin has become even smaller.
Temple has been plagued by injuries during the past month. Sophomore Daniel Dingle recently had surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee and is likely out for the season. Freshman forward Mark Williams was sidelined for one game after suffering a sprained ankle at Central Florida. Although he is medically cleared to play, Will Cummings has sat out for two of the past three games due to concussion-like symptoms.
“Will is definitely a big loss, starting at the point guard,” said sophomore forward Quenton DeCosey, who has scored in double-figures ever game this season. “We also have had other losses that could have helped us during this long stretch.”
Five of the team’s six losses during the losing streak have been to conference opponents – Rutgers, UCF, South Florida, Memphis and Cincinnati. Most recently, Temple fell to La Salle, as the Explorers topped the Owls for the first time in nine match-ups. Temple holds a 5-11 record and remains winless in conference play.
With the exception of its most recent game against La Salle, the Owls have held second-half leads during every game this season.
With the team’s injuries and short-stacked roster, combined with the transition into The American, Dunphy said confidence may be playing a part in the Owls’ struggles as of late, as the team needs to be “more mentally aware.” He said he talks about the issue with his players “ad nauseum.”
“It could be inexperience,” Dunphy said after the loss to the Knights on Jan. 4. “We need to get stops at certain times and score at others, but the encouraging thing is we’re right where we need to be many times at the end.”
Things won’t get any easier for the Owls this week. They will travel to Connecticut on Tuesday to face a 14-4 Huskies squad, later hosting conference-leader Cincinnati at the Liacouras Center on Sunday.
Junior forward Anthony Lee, who posted a career-high 15 rebounds and his eighth double-double of the season against the Explorers, took a long pause after the game before answering how the team can move past its current losing streak.
“To get through it, we have to come together more and be strong through the diversity that we’re going through,” Lee said. “That’s what we have to do.”
Avery Maehrer can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @AveryMaehrer.