This past Saturday, junior guard Mardy Collins was posed with a dilemma. Should he continue searching for his missing knit cap, which coach John Chaney requires his players to wear to protect them from the flu, and risk missing the team bus to the Owls’ game with South Carolina? Or should he forget the cap and make sure he made the bus?
Collins chose the latter, and Chaney took notice when the starting point guard showed up hatless. The co-captain was held out of the starting lineup for the first time in his Temple career.
With Collins on the bench, the Owls fell behind in the first five minutes and never recovered. The Gamecocks (3-0) continued their early-season roll with a 60-46 victory.
Collins and sophomore forward Wayne Marshall, who was punished for the same transgression, will be back in the starting lineup tonight, barring any more fashion-related delinquency. The Owls (1-2) host Arizona State (3-1).
A visit from the Sun Devils means having to deal with junior forward Ike Diogu, a preseason all-American and the leading scorer in the Pac-10. Diogu, who is averaging 25.3 points per game this season, is coming off a 30-point, 11-rebound performance against Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Marshall and junior center Keith Butler, who played only nine minutes at South Carolina due to foul trouble, will probably try to slow down Diogu. The Sun Devils do not have a reliable second option on offense, although sophomore forward Serge Angounou notched a career-high 13 points against Vandy.
Not only does Diogu get to the line with frequency, he hits his foul shots as well. He set a conference record with 243 free throw attempts last season and hit a solid 81.5 percent of those attempts.
Diogu is even more efficient this year. As a junior, he owns a 70-percent field goal percentage and is hitting 86 percent of his free throws. That may mean a short night for Butler, who fouled out of four games last season.
OUT OF RHYTHM
None of the Owls seemed comfortable without their floor general in the starting lineup on Saturday. Collins had just one assist after back-to-back seven-assist games. The team tallied only five assists collectively.
Freshman guard Mark Tyndale scored a team-high 13 points but hit just 5 of 20 field goal attempts. Dustin Salisbery, who contributed solid minutes off the bench in the Owls’ first two games, missed all six of his three-point attempts and finished with just four points. As a team, the Owls shot 31.7 percent from the field.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Collins’ streak of consecutive starts ended, but the sixth man for a day still collected his first Atlantic Ten Player of the Week award for his performances against Georgetown and South Carolina.
The junior dropped a season-high 22 points in the Owls’ 75-57 victory over the Hoyas on Monday, then swiped a career-high nine steals in the loss to the Gamecocks. Collins, whose assist-to-turnover ratio was just 1.4 to 1 in his first two seasons, has dished out nearly six assists per turnover this season.
ON THE AIRWAVES
Tonight’s game will be the Owls’ first televised contest of the season. The Owls are scheduled to play on television 14 times this year, down from 19 televised games last season.
Benjamin Watanabe can be reached at email@example.com.