ATLANTIC CITY — Fran Dunphy couldn’t have asked for much more from his guards Saturday.
The men’s basketball team may have suffered a setback at Boardwalk Hall, but the Owls showed in an 80-71 loss to Cincinnati why their backcourt will be as good as anybody’s the next time they suit up there.
Guard Mark Tyndale is set to return for the Owls next Saturday at Towson. After missing six games due to academic ineligibility, Tyndale will rejoin a backcourt that combined for 81 percent of Temple’s scoring against the Bearcats.
The next time the Owls take the floor in Atlantic City, it will be in the Atlantic Ten Conference tournament. And adding another veteran to an already-deep three-guard set gives the Owls some flexibility.
Dunphy said he’s unsure whether Tyndale will be in the starting lineup when he returns.
“Maybe, we’ll see,” Dunphy said. “I’ll go over it the next couple of days and we’ll see where that goes.”
Tyndale cannot speak to the media until he declares for NCAA eligibility after Dec. 15, when Temple’s fall semester concludes and grades are posted.
Per NCAA guidelines, Tyndale is not permitted to travel with the team. He can, however, make a road trip on his own, though he did not venture to Atlantic City.
With Tyndale absent, his teammates spoke about his return. And they seemed enthusiastic.
“With the addition of Mark coming back, we’ll be a lot better,” said Dustin Salisbery, who finished with 18 points.
“We’ll be playing a lot of four-guard offense when he gets back,” said Dionte Christmas, who had a game-high 20 points Saturday. “We’ll have a four-guard offense with Mark running the show. It’ll be good when he gets back.”
Tyndale has practiced with the team all season, though Dunphy has said his reps with the first team have been limited.
For a while, it seemed like Tyndale’s return couldn’t come soon enough. With 11 minutes to play, sophomore point guard Semaj Inge hit the floor clutching his right calf, which had cramped.
Inge, the Owls’ leading scorer at the time of his departure, returned six minutes later but he wasn’t the same.
“When I came back, it was like it was hard to get back into the flow,” said Inge, who was one of four Owls in double figures.
Dion Dacons’ right foot was braced and heavily taped before Saturday’s contest. The foot, which he injured in the Owls’ win over Western Michigan this week, seemed to agitate Dacons late in this one.
In the waning moments Saturday, the senior forward seemed to be running gingerly after having played 33 minutes.
Before the game, he had a training regimen that featured ice, medication and the insertion of special padding into his shoe. After the game, Dacons said he felt fine but was “in a lot of pain.”
“I just tried to stabilize it as much as I could,” said Dacons, who had 10 points and four rebounds.
Walking barefoot through the Owls’ lockerroom, Dacons’ right heel appeared severely bruised. After giving postgame interviews, Dacons put his foot into a knee-high removable walking cast before leaving the building.
A NUMBERS GAME
Junior Chris Clark is flashing a new look. The reserve guard now dons a No. 1 jersey, trading the No. 11 uniform he wore his two previous seasons.
The new number has translated into greater production this season. In his new threads, Clark has 20 assists through six games, which is more than he had in his first two seasons (19) combined.
At halftime the Owls were on pace to score 92 points, the most since March 3, 2004, when they needed 98 to top Massachusetts.
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at email@example.com.