John Chaney may have needed some assistance climbing up the stairs to the temporary stage set up in the Liacouras Center lobby, but once he reached the podium, the legendary coach was ready to talk.
“You guys should find a place to sit, I might be a little lengthy,” the 82-year-old joked as he stood beside the tarp-covered statue of his liking that would be unveiled a few moments later.
Just before wrapping up his 25-minute speech, Chaney took a moment to comment on the current state of coach Fran Dunphy’s squad – which at that point had lost eight of its past nine games. Chaney, who met and spoke with members of the team last week, has a clear message he’s trying to send.
“There’s a difference between being a loser and losing,” Chaney said. “There’s a difference between being a failure and failing.”
“They needed to know that,” he added.
The Owls ended up losing that afternoon to No. 9 Villanova 90-74 – failing to pull off an upset in their third Big 5 match-up of the season. Earlier in the week, the team snapped its eight game losing streak with a win against Rutgers, but in the process blew a 20-point lead to the Scarlet Knights.
Similarly, the Owls played well defensively during the first half against the Wildcats, but struggled in the second.
“We weren’t very good offensively in the second half,” Dunphy said. “I think a lot of that was because our defense was so bad.”
“They made switches on defense,” junior guard Will Cummings said of the team’s second half struggles against Villanova. “They took us out of a lot of our sets and played more aggressive on the defensive end.”
While the Owls trailed by five points at halftime, Villanova outscored them 29-9 off the bench as Temple’s short-stacked roster continues to force Dunphy’s hand on who he can play – Cummings and redshirt-senior guard Dalton Pepper played a full 40 minutes against Rutgers. Pepper went without a break against the Wildcats as well.
Temple sits at last place in the American Athletic Conference standings – mostly due to the team’s poor defensive play. The Owls rank fourth in scoring offense, but rank the lowest in scoring defense, rebounding and steals.
The Owls will travel to Texas later this week, where they will face Southern Methodist on Thursday and Houston on Sunday.
“We have to put this one behind us and move forward to the next two games,” redshirt-junior forward Anthony Lee said.
Winners of one game during conference play, Temple will play 10 more games this season – all against opponents in The American.
The Owls will need to win nine of their final 10 games in order to avoid finishing the season with a losing record. While making such a run is unlikely given the competition the Owls face, at least one man is not ready to bail.
“Just know that we’re with you,” Chaney said to Dunphy at his ceremony prior to the Villanova game. “And we’ll stay with you.”
Avery Maehrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AveryMaehrer.