We Thumped 'Em: Sixers Get Easiest of Wins Against Detroit

We Thumped 'Em: Sixers Get Easiest of Wins Against Detroit

Pity poor Greg Monroe. The Pistons' big man was dominant against the Sixers tonight, as he has been for much of the season, going for 20, 8 and 3 in just 31 minutes against Lavoy Allen, Nik Vucevic and Elton Brand. But as it turned out, it couldn't have made less of a difference. The Pistons shot just 32% from the field for the game and turned the ball over 22 times, as the Sixers pulled out to a 16 point lead at half-time and never looked back. The entire fourth quarter was garbage time as the Sixers cruised to the 97-68 victory.

Not too much to talk about on the Sixers' end—they won the way they were winning earlier in the season, including in the two times they already steamrolled Detroit—by playing stifling perimeter defense (Rodney Stuckey, Brandon Knight and Ben Gordon shot a combined 8-30 for the Pistons' backcourt), by sharing the ball (Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams all had at least five assists) and by making sure that Andres Nocioni and Francisco Elson get as little court time as possible. (They only played a combined six minutes, but still managed a hilarious sequence where Nocioni shot a three in transition that got blocked, then Elson turned the ball over trying to make a feed from the post to a cutting Noc.)

Even though the Sixers' MVP tonight might have been Thaddeus Young—20 points and eight rebounds to match Monroe, and continuing his ridiculous season-long trend of stealing the ball more frequently than he turns it over with two swipes and one giveaway—Thad's night might end up being best remembered for the one play he didn't make. Streaking down the court on a fast break, one step behind the ball-handler Iguodala, Thad ended up taking a beautiful between-the-legs feed from 'Dre and soared towards the basket for the easy dunk. Then this happened.

If 'Dre looked a little pissed in the replay, it's hard to blame him—this should have been a season-highlight dish for 'Dre, one that would've dropped jaws even at the dunk-happy exhibition he just played in on Sunday. And young Thaddeus knew he really blew it, too, hanging his head in disbelief and grinning sheepishly for lack of a better response. It's easily the worst blown dunk the Sixers have had since 'Dre himself clanged an uncontested windmill dunk in Atlanta—though as with tonight, that game was a blowout, so it was easy to laugh about it afterwards.

Now, back to Philly for a meeting with the West-best Oklahoma City Thunder. Pretty safe bet that that one won't be as easy a W, but we'll all probably feel a lot more confident facing OKC off an authoritative one-game winning streak then an increasingly discouraging six-game slide. In any event, after the roughest couple weeks of the season, it appears it's time to enjoy Philly basketball again. WOOOOOO ELSON AND NOCIONI.

Temple QB Phillip Walker provides leadership, offensive spark as Owls beat Charlotte

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Temple QB Phillip Walker provides leadership, offensive spark as Owls beat Charlotte

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Temple quarterback Phillip Walker rolled on the ground in pain after taking a shot late in the first quarter and was immediately forced to the sideline.

With the Owls already trailing and their starting QB’s shoulder dinged up, things certainly weren’t going how the team envisioned opening up its homecoming game at Lincoln Financial Field. 

“It’s a nagging injury that comes and goes,” Walker said.

The pain was able to quickly go away, and then the Owls were able to go off.

Walker returned after a one-play absence to throw a deep touchdown pass and spark 28 unanswered points by Temple during the second quarter of a 48-20 win over Charlotte (see Instant Replay).

The Owls (2-2, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) evened their record with the win before opening up AAC play next week against SMU.

“It was big for us just because we needed to get going offensively,” Walker said of his beautiful 51-yard touchdown pass to Adonis Jennings on the first play of the second quarter. “We knew it would happen. It just takes time. A lot of people come with the same energy every game at the beginning of the game. Just let that energy wear off a little bit. Once you get your opportunity, then you take your shots and make your plays as an offense.”

The Owls’ offense made plenty of plays during that big second quarter. 

A couple of possessions after Walker’s TD pass gave Temple back the lead, the Owls got a gift when Charlotte (1-3, 0-0 Conference USA) quarterback Kevin Olsen and running back Kalif Phillips botched a read-option exchange. The fumble was scooped up by TU defensive lineman Praise Martin-Oguike and returned 20 yards to the 49ers’ 13-yard line. On the very next play, Jahad Thomas scampered around the left side for a touchdown.

Temple’s defense then forced a three-and-out to get the ball right back for Walker, who connected with Brodrick Yancy on a 40-yard score to break the game open.

Ryquell Armstead tacked on a one-yard touchdown plunge right before halftime to give the Owls a 31-7 advantage at the break.

In all, the Owls outscored the 49ers 28-0 and outgained them 176-66 during the period.

“Once we got the turnover, we had another opportunity in the red zone to make something happen and we did,” Walker said. “Give us the ball in the red zone, we have to capitalize off of it and we have to be able to make a play.”

“I thought the turnovers and field position started helping hitting the big play,” Temple head coach Matt Rhule said. “I just think we kind of settled down on offense, got into a rhythm. I think you’re seeing that we’re able to get our quarterback into a rhythm and he’s playing pretty well.”

Temple got contributions from several key players on offense to rack up 507 total yards and 26 first downs in the victory. Thomas and Armstead each had a pair of rushing touchdowns. Eight different players caught passes with five reaching at least 40 yards, including sophomore wideout Yancy, who had four receptions for 70 yards and a score.

However, it all starts with Walker as he continued to build on the momentum he found last week against Penn State. Walker completed 15 of 26 attempts for 268 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.

The senior quarterback is starting to hit his stride at the right time with conference play coming up and his teammates are following his lead.

“He likes throwing the ball. The more we catch the ball for him the more it makes him look good, makes others look good and allows us to run the offense the way it can be run,” Yancy said.

“He’s been productive,” Thomas said. “Definitely coming into the season he was talking about his completion percentage. He’s a senior now. He feels more comfortable just getting his feet set. When you don’t have people breathing down your neck all the time you can be comfortable out there, so I’m quite sure that’s the reason why he’s playing so well in the last two games.”

With the defense still showing some warts (429 total yards allowed to Charlotte, including 231 on the ground) and the meat of the schedule coming up with conference play, Temple will be counting on Walker to keep his game at a high level to help the Owls defend their East Division crown.

“Looking forward to it,” Walker said of opening up the AAC portion of the schedule. “There are a lot of great teams in this conference. I think this conference can go either way whether it’s anyone from the West or anyone from the East. There’s a lot of great talent. We just have to bring our A game every week. We’ve got a long stretch here, so we just have to come out here and play our game.”

Phillies' Darin Ruf could be facing quiet goodbye

Phillies' Darin Ruf could be facing quiet goodbye

The final eight games remaining on the Phillies’ 2016 schedule will undoubtedly serve as a farewell to Ryan Howard.

Lost in the background may be the fact this week could quite possibly be the end for the man who was supposed to platoon alongside him this year, as well: Darin Ruf.

Both men have been supplanted by Tommy Joseph, who's hit 21 home runs in just 100 games this year while positioning himself as the Phillies first baseman of the near future.

Ruf will start Saturday night against Mets’ lefthander Sean Gilmartin. The Phillies are not scheduled to face a lefty starter for the rest of the season, so Saturday could be one of the final chances to see Ruf in a Phillies uniform, especially considering manager Pete Mackanin’s stated intent to give Howard more playing time down the stretch.

“It seemed like we never faced a lefty for the first month of the season. So that didn’t help Ruf at the time,” Mackanin said.  “Joseph entered the picture and made an immediate impression.”

Ruf’s departure from the majors set the stage for Joseph’s immediate emergence. At the time of his May 13 demotion to AAA Lehigh Valley – and Joseph’s promotion -- Ruf was had a .158/.206/.193 slash line.
  
Since his Sept. 1 return to the majors after rosters expanded, Ruf has done what he can to make sure his possible final season in a Phillies uniform ends on a high note. On Friday night, he drilled a home run to left center off Mets reliever Josh Smoker in pinch-hit duty, the first time Ruf had gone yard since Oct. 1, 2015.

“It felt good,” Ruf said about ending his home run drought. “You just try to simply things and last night it worked out for me.”

Where Ruf will be next year is a more complicated matter, as the 30-year-old is out of minor league options. Japanese scouts were spotted at the games he played for AAA Lehigh Valley.

With Lehigh Valley, Ruf received an opportunity he’s never truly been able to get with the Phillies due to the longstanding presence of Howard: a chance to play every day and consistently accumulate plate appearances. He hit .294/.356/.529 in 390 trips to the plate for the IronPigs. 

Ruf has never made more than 300 plate appearances in a major league season and would struggle to crack that number if he remains in Philadelphia as a backup to Joseph, who will still be 25 on opening day next year.

“I learned [this year] that you can’t take anything for granted in this game,” Ruf said. “You’ve just got to keep working to get better every day, got to put up numbers no matter where you’re at in order to get to where you want. 

“Hopefully, wherever I’m at next year, I can do that.”