Prior to the start of the season, junior guard Will Cummings called the team’s entrance to the American Athletic Conference “a showcase every night.”
Among the most notable match-ups of such showcases was Friday night’s game against defending champion Louisville. In what was a nationally televised match-up, the university dubbed the game a “white-out” and gave away free t-shirts that said “I Believe.” But the audience was thin – even the student section was half-full – and the Owls were blown out.
No. 13 Louisville (20-4, 9-2 American) defeated Temple (6-17, 1-10 American) 82-58.
“They don’t want to play poorly,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “They want to do as good as they possibly can. And I need to do a better job of keeping our ability to stop some people … We’re just not doing a very good job of it.”
Cummings led the Owls with 16 points, while Louisville was led by sophomore Montrezl Harrel with 22 points.
“We have to get better about preparing for the defensive end and making stops,” Cummings said. “Because that’s how we put ourselves in holes we can’t get out of.”
The tipoff was won by the Cardinals, as a short jumper from senior guard Russ Smith gave them a 2-0 lead. On Louisville’s next drive, a three by senior forward Luke Hancock extended the team’s lead to 5-0. Temple answered back with back-to-back layups to make it a 5-4 game early.
Then, an 10-0 run by the Cardinals extended their lead to 15-4. The run ended after an Anthony Lee dunk, but Louisville responded on its next possession with a Mangok Mathiang layup. After a timeout, Temple kept the game close for a short period of time, but Louisville quickly reclaimed the momentum, going on a 23-10 run to end the first half.
The Owls shot 34.5 percent from the field during the first half, while the Cardinals shot 62.5 percent. Louisville drilled six threes during the first to Temple’s two.
“I think they’re obviously a highly ranked team for a reason,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “They’re really talented. They do some really good things on both ends of the court. They’re extremely tough defensively. I was pleased with the fact that we didn’t turn it in the backcourt at all, but what they do is hurry it up. We turned it in the front court too many times, especially in that first half.”
“We turned it eight times, and it may not show up in the stats sheet, but it wears you down,” Dunphy added.
At halftime, the Cardinals led the Owls 52-25.
The second half didn’t get any better for Temple. Although the Owls started the half with four straight points, Louisville didn’t relinquish its hold on the game – the team didn’t lead by less than 21 for the remainder of the game.
The Owls will have one day off before hosting Southern Methodist on Sunday at 2 p.m. When asked why the defensive continues to struggle, Cummings laughed.
“I wish I knew,” he said. “I don’t know.”
Avery Maehrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AveryMaehrer.