Foul Trouble, Lack of Depth, Officiating All Cost Temple in Loss to Purdue

Foul Trouble, Lack of Depth, Officiating All Cost Temple in Loss to Purdue

The Temple Owls are a team who miss the leadership, offense, defense and physical contributions of Scootie Randall. Watching their 85-77 loss to the Purdue Boilermakers Friday afternoon made that fact painfully clear.

While the Owls fought valiantly on the strength of a game-high 27 points from senior guard Ramone Moore, Moore found himself attempting to spearhead a comeback without fellow guard Juan Fernandez or starting center Michael Eric. Both were dismissed with more four minutes left in the ballgame, leaving Moore and Khalif Wyatt—who finished with four fouls himself—to lead the team.

Fernandez made his exit in style with 5:40 remaining in the second half, following an after-the-whistle confrontation in which both he and Purdue's Kelsey Barlow were both whistled for technical fouls. Foul trouble has been an issue for Fernandez throughout his career at Temple, an issue he has said he needs to work harder to correct. Today, his five fouls, along with those of Michael Eric, put Temple in a late hole from which it was unable to recover.

As for the opposition, Boilermaker Robbie Hummel is no doubt the face of the Purdue program and started off hot—scoring 8 of his team's first 9—but it was 5-9 guard Lewis Jackson who played the biggest role against the Owls. Once again, Temple evidenced an inability to defend a small, quick guard. Jackson, who more or less had his way on offense and who was not appropriately taken advantage of by Temple on it's own possessions, finished with a team-high 26.

The performance was all to reminiscent of watching the Temple's loss in the A10 semifinals  last year to Richmond and the similarly talented Kevin Anderson. An undermanned Temple  was spread out on defense by a team who shoots well from the perimeter. Spreading the defense allowed Jackson to drive, dish and shoot all at will, while big man Michael Eric was left in the difficult position of having to play tough, yet responsible team defense. To his credit, his final foul was a disgrace of a call on a routine box out, but the 6-10 center still has much to learn about walking the fine line between being aggressive and staying on the floor.

On the subject of fouls, the Owls have attempted to get by with just a seven-man rotation in their first three games, as they await Randall's return from injury. While it's an understandable strategy given their current personnel, a seven-man rotation is put in a troublesome bind when too many of its members are in foul trouble, especially early. Michael Eric had to be removed from the ball game for an extended period in the first half in an effort to preserve him for the second; and though Fernandez's first foul wasn't picked up until the second half—a wholly welcome change from his usual quick two in the opening ten—the personals quickly racked up as the referees tried to put their mark on the game.

In this regard, the officiating legitimately harmed the contest. Purdue and Temple are two highly physical teams, so it isn't surprising that there would be an abnormal amount of contact when the two square off. There is nothing wrong with trying to establish certain guidelines in terms of what is and is not permissible on the floor, but the referees damaged a hard fought game due to an apparent discomfort with its character. At a time when Temple cannot afford consistent and widespread foul trouble, it was disappointing to see the officials take the game out of the player's hands, and into their own.

Other key notes from the Temple loss include comparative 3-point shooting and the Owls' struggles in help defense. Though Temple would wind up out-shooting the Boilermakers from the floor (52%-47%), they would finish just a miserable 3-12 from 3. And while Purdue wasn't exactly stellar from behind the line—shooting just 37.5% on 6 of 16 attempts—those extra nine points played a key factor in the outcome. As for issues in the help D, Purdue found itself many a clean look on a series of well-executed down screens. Hummel was particularly effective in the early going running curls toward the top of the key and outside of the arc, moving from behind timely, physical picks. As the game would progress and Temple would find its players struggling to stay on the floor with three and four fouls, the switches broke down and the help was slow and tentative in its arrival.

Thus, the Owls have suffered their first loss and will move 2-1 on the season.

The team will no doubt enjoy its rest on Saturday during its one-day break in San Juan. On Sunday, they'll look to take two of three from the Five-Hour Energy Puerto Rico Tip-Off when they face the loser of this evening's Alabama-Wichita State match up.

Eagles 2016 training camp schedule features 2 open practices

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Eagles 2016 training camp schedule features 2 open practices

Eagles rookies, quarterbacks, and select veterans will report to training camp on Monday, July 25. 

The rest of the veterans will report on July 27, with the first full-team practice of training camp taking place on Thursday, July 28 at 3:30 p.m., the team announced Wednesday. 

The majority of training camp practices this summer under Doug Pederson will take place at the NovaCare Complex, beginning at 8:15 a.m., which is earlier than the team practiced during camp under former head coach Chip Kelly. The early practices hark back to training camps under Andy Reid at Lehigh, although now the team will have its walkthroughs in the afternoon. 

The Eagles will have two practices open to fans at Lincoln Financial Field: Sunday, July 31 at 10 a.m. and Sunday, Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. Both open practices are free and don't require tickets. Seating will be on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

The Eagles will have several off days throughout camp: Aug. 2, Aug. 9, Aug. 12. And camp ends on Aug. 16, with the preseason opener vs. the Tampa Bay Bucs in the middle, on Aug. 11. 

With rotation gone, Mychal Kendricks preparing for comeback season

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With rotation gone, Mychal Kendricks preparing for comeback season

Getting in a rhythm, getting in a flow, is important for Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks. 

Really important. 

“That’s everything,” Kendricks said after Tuesday’s OTA practice. “It truly is.”

That’s why last season was so tough on the veteran linebacker. Under former defensive coordinator Bill Davis and head coach Chip Kelly, Kendricks was forced into a rotation with DeMeco Ryans, Kiko Alonso, and later Jordan Hicks. 

In a year when he did nurse a hamstring injury for a few weeks, Kendricks played just 52 percent of defensive snaps in 2015. After playing all 77 snaps in the opener, Kendricks never got above 90 percent again and didn’t play more than 70 percent of snaps in any of the last five games of the season. 

That’s quite a departure for someone who is widely considered to be a three-down linebacker. In 2014, Kendricks played 100 percent of his team’s defensive snaps in seven games. 

“I just feel like it was too much hot and cold, with all the players rotating in and out and whatnot,” Kendricks said about his 2015 season. “No one was able to get in the flow. It was odd. But I didn’t feel like I played as good or as much. For the time that I was in, I feel that my numbers were OK. But it’s hard to be a force or something to reckon with when you’re not on the field.”

Kendricks admitted the rotation was tough on him, but did what he was told. 

This season, he’s not expected to be in a rotation. For now, he’s the team’s starting weakside linebacker, while Jordan Hicks is in the middle with Nigel Bradham on the strongside. All three, however, are versatile and could be moved around. 

“All of those guys are pretty much interchangeable,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “And you have to be now.”

Aside from the rotation at inside linebacker a year ago, Kendricks also dealt with another injury. He basically missed a total of four weeks in 2015 with a lingering hamstring injury. In 2014, Kendricks missed four games with a calf injury. 

While Kendricks has never made a Pro Bowl, before last season, when healthy, he has played to that level. In fact, making the Pro Bowl is a personal goal for Kendricks this season. 

“I feel like if I stay healthy, you’ll see me in the Pro Bowl,” he said. “Those are things that you can’t control. Unfortunately, a couple times, I’ve fallen short of my personal goal because of an injury. No one wants that. I’m not making any excuses or anything, that’s just what it is. 

“I used to beat myself up over that, but as you get older and you start understanding the game, you know that there’s some things that you just literally do not control. You can’t beat yourself up over it.”

If Kendricks does get named to the Pro Bowl this season, his production will match the four-year, $29 million contract extension he signed before the 2015 season began. 

From the outside, it seems possible that Kendricks’ new contract might have been a factor in his decline last season, but the linebacker doesn’t seem to think it played much of a role. 

“Have I thought about it? Yeah,” Kendricks said. “But then I look back at all the scenarios that could have played an effect. I got paid and I didn’t play as much as I’d like to. It could have went both ways. Who knows, maybe I wouldn’t have played at all. I don’t know. Sometimes the grass is greener; sometimes the grass isn’t greener. I’m not a fortune teller or a future teller, I just go with my gut.”

Sixers draft target: F Ben Simmons

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Sixers draft target: F Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons

Position: Forward

Height/Weight: 6-foot-10/239 pounds

School: LSU

The 19-year-old Australia native was the favorite to be the top pick in the 2016 NBA draft before he ever took the court for LSU. Here we are less than a month from the draft and that still may very well be the case.

It's hard to ignore Simmons' production in his only season with the Tigers: 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and two steals per game. The 6-foot-10 forward with guard skills was named SEC Freshman of the Year and was named to the conference's first team. But for all his personal accolades, Simmons' team failed to make the NCAA Tournament after taking a 71-38 whooping at the hands of Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament. He's been criticized from everything to his lack of maturity to his inability to shoot consistently from the outside.

Strengths
It's so rare to see a player of Simmons' stature with the ability to handle and see the court so well. Watching Simmons grab the ball off the rim and then go the length of the floor to either finish or find the open man is a thing of beauty. I love how smooth he is. It looks effortless for him. You almost forget he's 6-foot-10. His basketball IQ is excellent. He forces contact down low with his big body and draws fouls. His rebounding ability should translate very well to the next level.

He has the ability to guard multiple positions with his length and athleticism... if he's motivated. His size is going to be a matchup nightmare for opposing teams. A traditional four will struggle with his quickness. He'll be able to take a lot of wings down low and punish them in the post.

Weaknesses
The biggest thing is his shot. It's been well-documented. His three-point output in college: 33 percent. As much as that number reflects a weakness, he's at least self-aware. He knows his weaknesses. His free-throw percentage (67 percent) is just OK. The good news is, if you actually watched him shoot, this isn't a total rebuild.

Are the maturity and competitiveness concerns legitimate? I don't know. It's a 19-year-old kid we're talking about. The Sixers will have to decide if those concerns are something he'll outgrow or a serious red flag going forward. Playing under Brett Brown, who coached Simmons' father in Australia, would hopefully mitigate some of the concern.

How he'd fit with the Sixers
This is a really interesting question that I'm not sure anyone has the answer to yet. At 6-foot-10, he almost has to play the four, but where does that leave Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, and possibly Joel Embiid and Dario Saric? There could be nights where Brown could get away with playing Simmons on the wing given his ball skills. But it might be a struggle for Simmons defensively depending on the matchup. In any case, Simmons will need a shooter/scorer or two in the lineup to complement his skill set.

NBA comparison
This is next to impossible. How many players have there been that are built like power forwards but handle like point guards? Magic Johnson is a lofty comparison, but Lamar Odom may not be quite strong enough. Much like Simmons, Magic was not a shooter (19 percent from three in his first nine years in the NBA), but at 6-foot-9, Johnson was one of the greatest facilitators in league history. If Simmons is somewhere between Johnson and Odom, the Sixers will be just fine.

Draft projection
I'd be shocked if the Sixers don't take Simmons at No. 1. It's the right call.