Loss to Villanova creates a loss of different variety

Outsiders to the men’s basketball program might contend that the Owls lack a legitimate scoring threat down low.

If that was the case, that point was validated after Saturday’s 83-65 loss at Villanova.

Center Sergio Olmos is Temple’s tallest player, at 7-0. But senior forward Dion Dacons, who has started all 11 games this season, leads the team in rebounds and the backcourt in scoring average.

Against Villanova, Dacons, the team co-captain, went down with what appeared to be a foot injury. He walked off the court five minutes later under the assistance of two trainers.

Initial word was that Dacons sprained his right foot, which appeared severely swollen after the game. It is the very same foot he sprained against Western Michigan Dec. 5.

After that injury – the first of Dacons’ career – he had his foot in a walking cast for a day, then a boot for another. He was able to practice two days later at full speed and play in a game on the fourth day.

Using that schedule as a model, Dacons would not be ready for a Jan. 2 meeting with Duke in Durham, N.C.

“I hope to be ready,” said Dacons, who finished with four points and 10 rebounds. “The important thing is to prepare for Duke. …Like I said, if I can’t go, Sergio [Olmos] and Anthony Ivory will pick up the slack that needs to be picked up.”

It’s no secret that the Owls lack a sizeable scoring option down low. At times this season, Dacons played the center or power forward position alongside a four-guard rotation.

But similarly, the Owls have been unable to stop opposing teams’ big men.

A backcourt player has led the opposition in scoring in eight of the Owls’ 11 games this season, with Saturday being a rare exception.

Against Villanova, Temple could not stop redshirt senior Curtis Sumpter, who had a 22-point, 14-rebound showing.

At one critical juncture in the second half – with the teams separated by just three points – Sumpter dunked over Olmos, who has Sumpter’s size but lacks his girth.

Olmos said he enjoys being called upon to stop a player in the paint. If Dacons were to miss a game, Olmos said he’d need to step up.

“I’m not looking forward to a time when Dion doesn’t play,” Olmos said. “I don’t want him not to play. We need him.”

With Dacons, the Owls’ leading rebounder, on the bench, guard Dionte Christmas said Villanova forwards “had their way” on the glass.

Without Dacons, “we’re small. It changes a lot,” Christmas said.

If Saturday night’s 18-point loss was a preview of what’s around the corner, it could be a bumpy road for the Owls.

Following their latest defeat, Temple hits the road for two games – one at No. 5 Duke, the other at Xavier, who many around the Atlantic Ten Conference feel could repeat as champions.

Then the Owls return home for a tilt with Saint Joseph’s before traveling north for a meeting with Massachusetts, another A-10 hopeful.

The five-game stretch – including their loss at the Pavilion – is easily the Owls’ most rigorous of the season.

“We’re in the soup here. We’ve got some tremendous basketball teams we’ll be playing,” said coach Fran Dunphy.

Prior to this season, Mark Tyndale had started all but one game in his two seasons at Temple. Now, the junior guard is coming off the bench to play a more pivotal role – sixth man.

Tyndale, who missed six games due to academic ineligibility, said he understands his new role, though it could take a bit longer to get used to.

“I’ll do anything I have to do to help my team win,” said Tyndale, who scored 16 against the Wildcats. “If I have to, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.”

In the five games since his return, during which the Owls are 3-2, Tyndale is averaging 14.4 points.

Christopher A. Vito can be reached at christopher.vito@temple.edu.

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