It feels like 2014-15 to senior guard Quenton DeCosey
Through 10 non-conference games in 2015, the Owls are 5-5, with three of the losses coming against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Last season, the Owls finished non-conference play 9-4, dropping two games against ranked opponents.
“I feel like we are in the same position as last year,” DeCosey said. “Like I said, we are going to have to be extremely focused going into conference play and treat every game like a big game.”
In the team’s three games against ranked opponents this season, the Owls lost by less than six points twice.
In the team’s six-point loss Nov. 22 in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off to then-No. 16 the University of Utah, the Owls led 66-65 with 2:40 remaining before falling 74-68.
Temple also conceded a final-minute lead in its 66-65 overtime loss Dec. 13 to St. Joseph’s. The Owls led by three points with four minutes remaining in overtime but missed their final four shots of the game.
“We would have liked to have a couple more wins—another win in Puerto Rico against Butler or Utah,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “And the St. Joe’s game hurt us. They made very timely shots, and we did not. That would have been a great win.”
Dunphy also said despite the five wins, he knows his team’s performance has not been up to his standard.
“What hurts is you want to play your best every single game out,” Dunphy said. “I thought we gave some good efforts in the first 10 games, but we can do better. You don’t get these games over again.”
The Owls open conference play Dec. 29 against No. 22 Cincinnati at Fifth Third Arena following a 10-day holiday layoff. The Bearcats are 10-3 this season, with two of their three losses against ranked teams.
Cincinnati is allowing 61.1 points per game, which is No. 18 out of 364 Division I teams and the Bearcats are allowing opponents to shoot 37.4 percent from the field, which is No. 15 in Division I.
“Cincinnati is a real good defense team,” Dunphy said. “If you told me we could get 27 decent looks from three [point range], I’d be shocked.”
The Bearcats, who have lost five home games since the start of last season, rank in the Top 50 of Division I teams in 18 different statistical categories.
“It’s a tough place to play,” Dunphy said. “We are going to have to be solid on the defensive end, and when we get looks, we are going to have to knock it out. We have to really pay attention to every detail with them.”
Nine of the 11 teams in The American have a better record than the Owls, with South Florida, 3-10, the lone team with fewer wins.
The Owls’ opening three conference opponents—Cincinnati Nov, 29, Houston Jan. 2 and Connecticut Jan. 5— have a combined record of 27-8.
Freshman guard Trey Lowe said the team’s preparation for conference plays begins off the hardwood.
“As a team, we have to focus in practice,” Lowe said. “We have to work on our team defense, on the ball and off the ball, and keep bonding and becoming betters players.”
Michael Guise can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Michael_Guise