Temple accomplished its first strategic goal on Saturday at Penn State as the Owls contained Joe Crispin, the Nittany Lions’ explosive scoring guard.
Unfortunately for coach John Chaney’s team, winning the battle didn’t yield a victory in the war, as Penn State guard Titus Ivory stepped up to score a game-high 21 points, sending Temple to its fifth straight loss, 66-60.
Ivory completed a double-double performance, handing out 10 assists.
The defeat drops the Owls below .500 for the first time since they were 5-6 in January of 1996. Temple’s 4-5 record heading into Thursday’s game with nationally-ranked Wisconsin is particularly disappointing considering the white-hot 4-0 start the Owls jumped out to last month.
Temple started well against the Nittany Lions as well, building an early nine-point lead. But a Penn State offense led by Crispin and Ivory reeled the Owls back in. The score was tied at 34 at the halftime break.
The game remained close through most of the second half. But with about three minutes left, an Ivory three-pointer ignited a 7-0 Penn State run. The Nittany Lions got key baskets down the stretch from Tyler Smith and sophomore Jon Crispin.
Smith was Penn State’s second-leading scorer for the game with 12 points. Both Joe Crispin and his younger brother Jon ended the game with 12 points.
Chaney was happy to contain Joe Crispin, but understandably disappointed with the outcome of the game.
“When you play against a great player like that, you have to pick your poison,” Chaney said. “You stop one guys and hope the other players don’t score as well.”
Player of the week
Freshman David Hawkins had another solid game against Penn State, playing the whole 40 minutes in the absence of senior starter Quincy Wadley and scoring 14 points, but junior center Kevin Lyde has been the Owls’ most consistent performer all season.
Lyde led Temple at Penn State with a double-double of his own, as he scored 16 points and haled down 12 rebounds. He also blocked three shots, stole a ball and dished an assist in 38 minutes of action.
Lyde often has trouble staying on the floor due to fouls resulting from his physical play in the blocks. But against Penn State, the 6-foot-9 native of Washington, D.C., wasn’t whistled for a single personal foul.
Around the Atlantic 10
A couple of Atlantic 10 schools are off to their best starts in years.
St. Bonaventure is 7-1 for the first time since they started the 1970-71 season with an 8-0 record which later became 9-1.
Fordham’s 6-1 start is its best since the 1971-72 season when the Rams rode out to a 7-1 start.
Fordham’s Bevon Robin scored 20 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had seven steals in the Rams’ upset of cross-Apple rival St. John’s. That earned him A-10 Player of the Week honors.
St. Joseph’s freshman point guard Jameer Nelson notched his third A-10 Rookie of the Week award of the young season. The Hawk scored 15 points and dished 4 assists in a loss to Villanova.
Home win streak on the line
Temple last suffered a loss at the Liacouras Center/Forum at the Apollo on December 9, 1998. Wisconsin came to Philly and knocked off the Owls by a 63-56 score that day.
Since then Temple has rung off 24 straight wins in its home building.
The Badgers, coming off a trip to the NCAA Final Four last year, return to the Liacouras Center Thursday night with a chance to bookend the Owls’ home win streak. Incidentally, the Utah Utes just had their nation-leading 54-game home win streak snapped by Weber State on Tuesday night.
Wisconsin recently lost its legendary head coach, Dick Bennett, who abruptly retired citing burnout. Bennett and Chaney have both long been synonymous with great defensive basketball, and the Badgers will further fracture a stunted and slumping Temple offense.
If Wisconsin can muster more than 50 points, Temple’s home streak may be the next victim of the Owls’ punishing non-conference schedule.
Christmas break schedule
After the Wisconsin matchup, the season doesn’t really get any easier for Temple.
Robert O’Kelley and Wake Forest travel to North Broad Dec. 21. The Demon Deacons took a Pepe Sanchez-less Owl team down last fall in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Wake is considered a much better team this year.
Former Villanova and UNLV coach Rollie Massimino rolls into the Liacouras Center with his Cleveland State team Dec. 23. Temple often has a tough time against coaches familiar with the Owl style, and Rollie has some experience in that area.
Expect plenty of ‘Nova faithful to buy tickets to see Rollie.
Temple will ride the bus over to the Palestra to play Penn Dec. 29, and then the Atlantic 10 season begins. A Jan. 11 game at Dayton could foreshadow the Owls’ fate within the conference.
Temple senior starting guard Quincy Wadley suffered a first-degree left shoulder sprain near the end of the first half of Temple’s loss at Villanova Dec. 5.
An examination by Temple doctors revealed no visible separation of the joint, and Wadley may be able to return to the floor against Wisconsin. He should definitely be back in time for Wake Forest.
Wadley is Temple’s third-leading scorer, as well as the Owls’ most experienced player. Point guard Lynn Greer has struggled to keep the offense together without the ball-handling assistance and game savvy of Wadley.