Who: UConn (20-5, 8-4 AAC) at Temple (7-17, 2-10 AAC)
When: 9 p.m. Thursday
Where: Liacouras Center: Philadelphia, PA
TV / Radio: ESPN2/ 1210 WPHT
BY RICH FOGEL
Philahoops staff writer
Coming off a rare win against SMU on Sunday, Temple is looking to win back-to-back games for the first time since November as UConn travels to the Liacouras Center for the first time in their program history.
Temple’s two conference wins this year are tied for the lowest in The American. The move to the new conference has come with its struggles as it coincides with a rebuilding year for Temple.
The competitiveness of the conference is catching up for the young team as the first time in program history; Temple is playing five straight games against teams in the Top 25. The Owls faced four in a row in 1995-96.
UConn and Temple faced off against each other for the first time in 49 years on January 21st in Hartford, CT. UConn handed Temple their worst loss of the season, as Shabazz Napier led all scorers with 27, routing Temple by 24 points.
Both teams are coming off big wins, as UConn beat 20th ranked Memphis on Saturday in a thrilling 86-81 overtime win. As mentioned, Temple snapped their four game losing streak, beating 23rd ranked SMU by seven.
The Owls’ top four scorers, who have accounted for 83 percent of the team’s points, produced just 26 percent of last year’s total points. Five seniors graduated from Temple’s roster last season that all had major roles on the team; they accounted for 70 points a game in 2013.
With this young team, inconsistencies were going to transpire and factor in injuries, lack of depth, and the much more competitive conference; Temple is undergoing their worst season in decades.
Temple is still currently the only team in Division I to have four players averaging 14 or more points per game, but the next player after that only averages 6.7 points a game and that’s sophomore Daniel Dingle who is out for the year with a meniscus tear.
Since losing to the Huskies last month, the Owls have gone 2-5 but senior Dalton Pepper has been one of the most consistent players in the league, averaging 18.2 points per game. Junior Will Cummings ranks second on the team with 16.2 points per game and also has 4.4 assists per contest.
The Owls struggles in The American have been evident, as they lost by an average margin of 9.2 points and surrendering nearly 80 points (78.3) to conference opponents.
A Look at UConn
UConn began the season 9-0 and was ranked in both national polls until losing three of five from mid-December to early January. They have now won six of their last seven to break back into the Top 25 in both polls.
UConn is led by Napier in all major categories with 18.0 ppg 5.8 rpg and 5.5 apg in UConn’s 25 games this season. Second year head coach and former 76er Kevin Ollie has the highest winning percentage (.727) among any Husky coach who had coached more than 20 games. Also, he is the only coach in program history to post back-to-back 20-win seasons in his first two years.
UConn is 4th in ultra competitive American conference and has three wins against top 25 schools.
UConn handles the glass and beats Temple for the second time this season. Napier scores 20 plus points and the lack of depth for Temple will hurt them in this game because UConn routinely plays with a nine man rotation compared to Temple’s seven.