By CHASE SENIOR
It’s something that has never happened before.
In the storied 119-year history of Temple basketball, the Owls have never lost 20 games in a single season.
That is until now.
With Thursday’s 88-66 thumping to Louisville, Temple was dealt its 20th loss of the season- unchartered territory for the program with the sixth most wins in Division I basketball.
The run of six straight NCAA Tournament appearances is over and has been for a while now, but the Owls can finally get a fresh breath of air, because a five-game stretch that saw five straight ranked opponents is finally over.
Many projected the season to be a challenging one, but the 2013-14 campaign has been historically bad. Temple is one of the worst defensive teams in the country. Depth, a lack of experience and consistency have been major issues all year and for a team that is faced with the fifth toughest schedule in the country according to ESPN RPI rankings, losing five seniors and switching to a power conference came at the wrong time.
Since the turn of the New Year, Temple has lost 15 of 17 games, but with three regular season games left, two of which are home, the Owls can finish what has been a disastrous season strong and shift its focus to next season.
-Houston is next up:
Next up for Temple, before the regrouping, refocusing and fresh start begins, is the Houston Cougars, who the Owls lost to 88-74 back on February 9.
Like Temple, Houston has had a difficult time in the American Athletic Conference. Since kicking off the conference schedule on December 31, the Cougars are 6-9, but enter Saturday evenings tip winners of two straight against Central Florida and No. 21 Memphis.
Houston certainly has an excess of talent and the Cougars are a young team filled with some high-flying athletes. That was evident during the teams last meeting when Houston produced some highlight reel dunks.
Junior forward TaShawn Thomas carries the scoring load for the Cougars. The 6-foot-8, 240-pound big man is averaging 15.8 points and 8.4 rebounds. Thomas is effective with his back to the basket, and loves the shoot the baby hook.
A player to look out for off the bench, is 6-foot-5 sophomore guard, Jherrod Stiggers. Stiggers’ numbers are not eye popping (10.5 points, 2.6 rebounds per game) but Stiggers is a streaky shooter and if he finds a groove from the outside, look out.
Temple was a victim of Stiggers quick trigger on February 9, when Stiggers dropped 20 points and splashed home a season high five 3-pointers.
-What’s up with Temple?:
Temple is one of five teams in Division 1 to have four players averaging 13 or more ppg, but it doesn’t mean a thing when you can’t play defense. Such is the case for the Owls.
For the most part, scoring has not been an issue, but defending the opposition, whether that be zone, man-to-man, help defense, or defending the pick and roll, the Owls haven’t been able to do it.
Senior guard Dalton Pepper can light it up at anytime, but the sharp shooting guard from Pennsbury High School has been inconsistent over the last two weeks, but leads the Owls in scoring with 16.9 ppg.
Sophomore guard Quenton DeCosey has all the talent in the world , and that has showed at times this season, but DeCosey’s effort on both sides of the ball has come into question. There have been a series of plays recently, where DeCosey turned the ball over, but failed to get back on defense when he had a clear shot of having a positive impact on a play.
Decosey’s shooting numbers have also steadily decreased. From Januuary 21 up until now, DeCosey is 53-for-153 from the field- good for 35 percent. Although DeCosey is averaging 15.3 ppg, his shot selection has been porous.
You can never question the effort of junior point guard Will Cummings. You will never see Cummings take a play off and his numbers are reminiscent of that. (16.3 ppg, 4.2 apg.) Time and time again, Cummings has hit the deck hard, but bounced right up to give equal effort on both ends of the floor. Cummings has been the heart and soul of the Owls in 2013-14.
Junior forward Anthony Lee’s status is unknown for Saturday night. The junior forward has missed two straight games and three of his last four games due to a knee injury and a toe injury.