The men’s basketball team defeated Fordham and Rhode Island last week to improve its Atlantic Ten Conference record to 6-2 to take first place in the conference.
For the second consecutive season, graduate center Micheal Eric made a late-season recovery from an injured right patella and was reinserted into the starting lineup when the Owls faced Rhode Island away last Saturday.
The Owls won the game by a 17-point margin, 73-56, while Eric went two-for-two from the floor with four points in 17 minutes, while adding five rebounds and a block. Coach Fran Dunphy said Eric played up to par, considering his 13-game absence from the lineup.
“[Eric] has really come a long way in terms of putting himself in position to finish up his senior year,” Dunphy said. “He’s playing OK, I think he’ll start to play even better.”
Temple leads the Atlantic Ten Conference with a 6-2 league mark and a 17-5 overall record, but the team is No. 9 in rebounding, averaging a negative 0.3 margin [34.1 rebounds per game]. The Owls’ next opponent, the George Washington Colonials, averages a lower margin off the boards at 33.3 and is No. 11 in the league.
The Owls will rely on Eric to continue to attack the boards when the Colonials visit the Liacouras Center on Wednesday at 6 p.m. Before Eric’s injury, the Nigeria native led the A-10 in rebounding with 11.3 per game.
Dunphy said 6-foot 11-inches Eric is likely to start against 6-foot 6-inches junior forward Dwayne Smith, who averages 4.9 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. The match-up will test Eric’s speed and ability to position his body around the basket.
“[Eric] has got to play well, whoever he’s matched up to,” Dunphy said. “Some guys are going to be smaller and faster and some guys are going to be slower and bigger.”
“Some guys are going to be able to step away from the basket and he’s going to have to get out there and contest it, all the while being in great position to help us rebound the basketball,” Dunphy added.
Even though the Colonials average 62.2 points per contest, which is the No. 13 scoring offense in the league, the Owls expect the visitors to come out firing. George Washington’s leading scorer, senior guard Tony Taylor, who averages 14.1 points and 4.3 assists per game, will have the attention of the Owls’ perimeter defense.
“We do so much switching that every one of our guys is going to have to know the pluses and minuses of Taylor,” Dunphy said.
“We played [Taylor] last year so we know a little bit about him,” senior guard Juan Fernandez added. “He’s a scorer and a passer. Whenever you have to guard their best player, you got to think about that before the game and prepare yourself during practice.”
Dunphy added that junior guard/forward Lasan Kromah will be a threat in the backcourt for the Colonials as well. Kromah is a 6-foot-5-inch swingman averaging 10.6 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.
“They have really good guard play,” Dunphy said. “All of our guys, including the guys coming off the bench as well, are going to have to pay attention to all the details that make these guys good players.”
In addition, the Colonials’ junior forward David Pellom, who recently returned from injury, owns an A-10-best field goal percentage at 65.8 percent and averages nearly nine points and five rebounds per outing.
“I expect [Pellom] to be a force for them,” Dunphy said. “He will play his best game against Temple.”
Offensively for the Owls, redshirt-senior guard Ramone Moore, who leads the league in scoring with 18 points, was named the A-10 player of the week for the second time this season for the week ending on Feb. 5. Moore scored game-highs of 25 and 22 points in wins against Fordham and Rhode Island, respectively.
The Owls received votes in the national rankings for the first time since Nov. 21. The team received 41 votes in the AP Top 25 Poll and six votes in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, released on Monday.
Connor Showalter can be reached at email@example.com.