The men’s basketball team can’t seem to win more than two consecutive games this season, and part of the struggle thus far lies in its schedule. After beating Villanova and Penn in December, the Owls encountered a defending Elite Eight team in Alabama and lost by four points. Then they topped Princeton and Massachusetts only to suffer an eight-point loss at Duke.
That form stayed true Saturday. Coming off resounding wins over St. Bonaventure and Rhode Island, the Owls faced George Washington and lost, 74-58.
It was their second straight loss to the Colonials, who won the teams’ only meeting last season by 18 points.
The Owls (10-9, 6-2) will try to bounce back tomorrow when they host Dayton. The Flyers lead the Atlantic Ten Conference West Division despite having lost four starters from last year’s lineup that won the division. They boast a fast and deep lineup like the Colonials’, who outdid the Owls from the start Saturday.
Ailing guard Dustin Salisbery was held out of the starting lineup after missing all of the Rhode Island game with flu-like symptoms. Freshman guard Mark Tyndale bruised his knee in that game as well, and spent the first six minutes of Saturday’s game warming up on a stationary bike.
In all, coach John Chaney said seven players and coaches were sick. With the Temple regulars out, the Colonials jumped out to a 15-6 lead in the first seven minutes and only built on that lead as the game progressed.
“Different thoughts go through your head [when you’re sick],” Salisbery said. “We wanted the conference win, especially since it was GW, and each possession we were trying to play hard. But they were outrunning us, outrebounding us, and just came in with a lot more energy than we had today.”
Junior guard Mardy Collins, tabbed as the third-best guard in the nation last week by CBSsportsline.com, had one of his worst games of the season. Collins finished with 13 points and six rebounds but committed six turnovers and shot 5-for-17 from the field.
“We had 11 [turnovers], and Mardy had six,” Chaney said. “And they scored off every single one. That’s not good at all.”
Chaney gave eight players extended minutes in an attempt to offset George Washington’s depth. Six Colonials average more than 20 minutes per game in coach Karl Hobbs’ high-intensity offense.
The Colonials’ defense gave the Owls fits, Collins said.
“Their help defense was tremendous and so were their traps,” he said. “They were quick to trap and didn’t let guys out, so it was a rough night for the guards and everybody on down.”
George Washington forward J.R. Pinnock led all scorers with 18 points. Tyndale led the Owls with 17 points off the bench.
Oddly, the Owls had more rebounds than the Colonials and committed fewer turnovers, with 39-38 and 11-12 advantages, respectively. But the Colonials had assists on 17 of their 26 field goals while the Owls had only eight.
Chaney acknowledged center Keith Butler as one of the few bright spots Saturday. Butler scored a season-high 10 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, also a season high. The 7-foot-1 center has chronic respiratory problems, but Chaney said he showed no ill effects.
The loss clouded the Owls’ postseason hopes for the moment. The Temple News reported in January that the Owls likely had to go 13-3 against A-10 opponents to have a strong shot at an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.
Starting tomorrow, they must win seven of their last eight games to attain that mark.
“Our minds are always on [the postseason], but we’re still taking each game one by one,” Collins said. “Our minds are set that we want to be playing deep into March. So our goal now is to come out hard in these next [eight] games and play the best we can.”
Benjamin Watanabe can be reached at email@example.com.