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.

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Being immersed in the team is important for Nerlens Noel, and so is continuing his rehab. 

While the Sixers are on the road for three days to play the Grizzlies and Pelicans, Noel will remain in Philadelphia to work out at the training complex in Camden, New Jersey. The team is not scheduled to practice in between games, so staying back allows Noel another day to get on the court.

“[I want him to] just start playing more and have a ball in his hands, get hit, physical, feel people, play one-on-one,” head coach Brett Brown said.

Noel has yet to play this season because of elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October. He rejoined the Sixers after completing the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Alabama. There still is no timetable for his return. 

Brown has said there is a “classroom” element to Noel’s return. He has to learn a roster with new players and schemes. 

The on-the-court side of it is a reacclimation to the intensity of the league. Regardless of how many games Noel already has played in the NBA, there is an adjustment period getting back into the grind of the competition. Brown believes the time in the gym this week will help Noel prepare for the level of intensity he will face in his return. 

“It’s such fool’s gold to think somebody’s going to jump back into NBA basketball after you haven’t played for so long. I don’t care how athletic he is,” Brown said. “It’s a man’s world, this league, and there’s a physicality and there’s a real-time reaction you have to have to play in the game. You can’t make that up in practice, you can’t make that up playing one-on-one, but you can better position him instead of just going out to get shots. I want him to feel a body, get hit, hit back, play one-on-one, those types of things.”

Noel had been assigned to the Sixers’ Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, to get in practice time when the Sixers had a game. The Sixers may forego another assignment and keep Noel at their facility as the Sevens also have two games in the next three days. 

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid has been making the NBA look easy. Rookie of the Month honors, five double-doubles in 13 games, seven performances of 20 points or more … all having missed the last two years rehabbing from foot injuries.

Embiid, though, still is a player learning the league. Night’s like Monday’s lackluster showing are going to happen, even if it seemed unexpected against the struggling Denver Nuggets. 

“We’ve been used to seeing Jo have superhuman nights,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ 106-98 loss (see Instant Replay). “I thought Joel was down tonight.” 

Embiid tallied a total 16 points (5 for 15 from the field, 1 for 3 from three, 5 for 6 from the line) with four rebounds, one assist, a career-high five blocks, three turnovers and three fouls in 25:32. 

He had a quiet first half with six points (2 for 5 from the field) and one rebound in 9:21. The biggest struggle came in the third quarter. Embiid scored a single point off a free throw and shot 0 for 6 from the floor. By the end of three, he was shooting 18.2 percent. 

The big man said he needed to be better at passing out of the double team. He committed two turnovers in the third. 

“I wasn’t getting to my spot and I wasn’t getting what I’m used to getting,” Embiid said of the first three quarters. “I’m going to go back and watch the tape and see what I did wrong.” 

Embiid bounced back for another Embiid-like offensive effort in the fourth. He dropped nine points off an efficient 3 for 4 shooting in 7:31. Still, it wasn’t enough. 

“I made a couple shots,” Embiid said. “It didn’t help us win, so I don’t think it matters.”

Brown noticed Embiid rushing his game. He also thought Embiid’s balance was off, something the big man has been dealing with all season as he continues to find his legs. 

Embiid will not play in Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. It is part of his workload management in which he does not play both games of a back-to-back. Expect him to hone in on game film until his next matchup, and get back on the roller coaster that can be a first year in the NBA. 

“It's just part of a young man's growth,” Brown said. “It just happens. I don't think we need to read too deeply into it. I think, in many ways, to expect from time to time not as good of a performance as we have been used to is fair enough.”