Defensive woes continue in Temple's latest loss

Defensive woes continue in Temple's latest loss
February 14, 2014, 10:00 pm
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Temple lost its fourth straight game, 82-58, to No. 13 Louisville Friday night at the Liacouras Center. (USA Today Images)

Since snapping an eight-game losing streak with a win over Rutgers on Jan. 29, the Temple Owls have …

Lost to No. 9 Villanova by 26.

Lost to SMU by 23.

Lost to Houston by 14.

And lost to No. 13 Louisville by 24 -- 82-58 at the Liacouras Center Friday night (see Instant Replay).

The loss dropped Temple to 6-17 this season and 1-10 in the American Athletic Conference. After starting the season 5-5, the Owls lost sophomore forward Dan Dingle to a torn meniscus and have since gone 1-12 in 2014.

In their last eight games, in which they've been outscored by 103 points, Temple has allowed its opponents to shoot a staggering 54.4 percent from the field. Every team -- including Rutgers -- has made more than half its shots and scored at least 74 points.

"We've just got to get better preparing on the defensive end and make sure we get stops," said junior point guard Will Cummings, who scored a team-high 16 points but did so on 4-for-10 shooting. "We're putting ourselves in holes we can't get out of."

What's going on?

"Letdowns, giving up wide-open 3-pointers, not helping on time, getting caught on screens, those kinds of things," he answered.

And why do those things keep happening?

"I wish I knew. We'd fix it," he said. "I don't know."

For years, Temple was known for its defense. Now, the closest thing to a John Chaney defense at the Liacouras Center is an eight-foot bronze statue standing in the lobby.

Things weren't always this bad under Dunphy, obviously. Temple has gone to the NCAA tournament the last six years. But in each of the last three seasons, a defense once led by Lavoy Allen has gotten progressively worse in his absence.

This year, amidst injuries, inexperience and a roster than just can't compare to what a team like Louisville is putting on the floor, things have bottomed out.

"There's no frustration from me towards them," Dunphy said, referring to his players. "I'm the coach, I've got to keep my understanding of what they're going through in mind. They don't want to play poorly. … We've got to do a better job of stopping people and that's all on me.

"But is it frustrating? Yeah, it is. I would be lying if I told you it wasn't."

As bad as this year has been, coach after coach has lauded Dunphy after games this season, holding up his track record over the mess this season has become. 

Rick Pitino was no exception.

"They had a key injury, they're coming off a terrific season, it's a rebuilding year," Pitino said. "I've always said this and I've said it for a long time: Fran Dunphy is one of the premiere coaches in our game. He's going through a tough season, but it doesn't get any better [than him]. 

"Everybody's always asked me to rate the top 10 coaches that I've seen in my life. I always put him in the top 10 in every discussion I've had.

"He's just right now going through a difficult season. He'll get it going again, obviously, because he is that good."

Things do figure to be better next year. It just looks like things are about to get even worse this year.

Friday night's shellacking at the hands of Louisville kicked off a five-game stretch for Temple against the top 25. The Owls will host No. 23 SMU and No. 24 UConn before visiting No. 20 Memphis and -- in a rematch 13 days from now -- No. 13 Louisville.

Assuming all four teams remained ranked, it will prove the first time in Temple history the Owls have faced five consecutive top-25 opponents.

"We've gotta keep plugging away," Dunphy said. "We've got a helluva game on Sunday against a really good basketball team (SMU). And then after that, it gets just as tough next week. That's the way life is."

Injury update
Owls junior forward Anthony Lee limped off the floor in the second half with 10:26 remaining and did not return.

"It's just sore right now. It buckled," Lee said, referring to his knee. "I wanted to come back in, but there was no need to because of [Louisville's] lead, so I just sat out."

"I didn't talk to the trainer, so I'll do that now and make sure that he's OK," Dunphy added. "We have another game coming up in 48 hours, so that was part of my [decision to sit him]. But he was limping off the court so I figured he was pretty hurt and I didn't want to chance it.

Temple hosts No. 23 SMU at 2 p.m. Sunday.