Moore, Hollis-Jefferson Lead Temple over Rival Villanova

Moore, Hollis-Jefferson Lead Temple over Rival Villanova

In the battle for Big 5 Player of the Year, Ramone Moore put forth his best effort when it mattered most. The fifth-year senior posted a game-high and career-high 32 points in Temple's 78-67 win over Villanova Saturday evening.

"I just tried to be aggressive," said Moore after the game. "I knew it was going to take a big game from one of us to beat these guys."

Indeed, in the last three meetings between Temple and Villanova, it's been that one marquee performance that's made the difference, and ultimately decided the outcome. Two years ago, it was Juan Fernandez with a career-high 33. Last year, it Maalik Wayns with a team-high 21.

This year, it was Moore's turn.

"We can't win this game without him having this kind of game," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy. "He's had a number of these kinds of games over the years, when we need somebody to step up."

It wasn't totally smooth sailing, though, for Ramone, who struggled to find his shot in the first half and quickly found himself in foul trouble. "In the first half, my three wasn't going down," said Moore. "So I said to myself, 'I'm going to start driving."

And drive he did. Scoring 23 of his 32 in the second half, Moore embodied the reincarnation of former Temple Owl Mark Tyndale with the way he tore to the basket. And while he never totally found his jumper, he did just fine from the line, converting 14 of his 15 attempts.

While Moore will get the credit for leading the team in scoring—credit he is very much due—it was Rahlr Hollis-Jefferson who did, as both coaches Dunphy and Wright put it, all the "little things." And, really, Rahlir has a special ability to make those "little plays" look and feel like big plays.

"He had two great tip-ins today," said Dunphy. "They were critical tip-ins at the right time for us."

Hollis-Jefferson has developed something of a habit in the early stages of this, his junior, season when it comes to using his length and vertical leap to make plays that spark his team, be they dunks, alley-oops, tip-ins or a career-high 14 rebounds against Villanova. Chipping in with eleven points, Saturday was the second double-double of the 6-6 power forward's career, and first of the season.

For Villanova, Maalik Wayns led all Wildcat scorers with 23, but as coach Jay Wright would reiterate multiple times after game, his teammates "didn't give him much help."

Dominic Cheek looked sharp after knocking down two early 3-pointers, but would fade from the game in the second, ending up just 3-10 shooting . Darrun Hilliard, who has been one of 'Nova's best jump shooters this year, finished 0-8 from the floor and 0-5 from behind the line. Other than Cheek and Wayns, only one other Wildcat—Mouphtaou Yarou—finished in double figures, and he played just 19 minutes.

"We had real difficultly guarding their guards," said Villanova coach Jay Wright. "They were playing, at times, five perimeter people. So, we were trying to match up defensively."

In that way, Temple's lack of height—a perceived disadvantage prior to the game—actually worked in its favor, forcing Villanova to respond to an abnormally small lineup it wasn't prepared to handle.

"They're really long and quick to the ball," said Wright of Temple's lineup. "Rebounding isn't just being big, they're really quick to the ball. [When] you've got a big guy like Mouph, and if you're playing against a thick center at Syracuse, that's a good thing, but when you're playing against quicker guys that go after the ball…"

Whether they would have been better off continuing to play Yarou to pound Temple inside on offense, rather than trying, and failing, to match up on defense, is a question that will probably keep Wright awake tonight.

Manning the bench at the other end of the floor, coach Dunphy saw Temple's undersized rotation as neither an advantage nor disadvantage, only "the hand [Temple's] been dealt."

"It's what we do," said Dunphy "We don't have a myriad of options. We have guys out there where everybody is the same size. One thing we can do is just switch everything, which helps us.

"It's just how we play."

And on that front, when it comes to how Temple plays, it was Wright who captured the tone of the night. "They made so many little plays, you know? A lot of Ramone Moore's plays were like tip-ins, great drives, just really smart plays. I think they're a really smart team."

On Saturday in North Philadelphia, Villanova didn't just lose to a smarter team, but to, as Wright put it, "a better team."

Eagles Inactives: Bennie Logan (groin) out vs. Vikings

Eagles Inactives: Bennie Logan (groin) out vs. Vikings

Eagles defensive tackle Bennie Logan (groin) is inactive for the team’s game against the Vikings at the Linc on Sunday afternoon.

Logan missed practice all week but was listed as questionable and was said to be a game-time decision. Beau Allen will start in his place, but the Eagles will likely use more Allen, Fletcher Cox, Destiny Vaeao and Vinny Curry at tackle.

While Logan is inactive, Ron Brooks (calf), Leodis McKelvin (hamstring) and Mychal Kendricks (ribs) are all active. The trio was listed as questionable coming into the weekend.

Joining Logan among the inactive players are: OL Dillon Gordon, OL Josh Andrews, OL Isaac Seumalo, CB C.J. Smith, S Terrence Brooks and WR Bryce Treggs.

Despite Tregg’s getting extended reps this week in practice, he’s still not playing.

For the Vikings, wideout Stefon Diggs (groin), who was listed as questionable, is active.

Vikings inactives: WR Laquon Treadwell, WR Jarius Wright, LB Kentrell Brothers, C Nick Easton, G Willie Beavers, DT Sharrif Floyd, TE MyCole Pruitt.

Union-Red Bulls 5 things: Aim to finish strong against streaking New York

Union-Red Bulls 5 things: Aim to finish strong against streaking New York

Union vs. New York Red Bulls
4 p.m. on TCN 

Having all but officially made the postseason for the first time since 2011, the Union, who are already locked into a first-round road match, could rest players Sunday in the season finale against the New York Red Bulls (15-9-9). But that doesn’t mean the Union (11-13-9) will be mailing it in.

Here are five things to know.

1. Playoff recovery
The Union had hope that last Sunday’s home match against mathematically eliminated Orlando City SC would work as a slump buster, breaking the club’s five-game winless run. 

Instead, with a 2-0 loss, it just extended the Union’s slump to six.

“We had a good meeting with the group, we talked a lot about accountability,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “Everybody does have to look in the mirror.”

With their last win coming in late August, the Union seem fresh out of ideas. Passing up the ripe opportunity to gain confidence against Orlando City, the club must now host the best team in the Eastern Conference as a pre-playoff test.

“We shot ourselves in the foot in a big spot and we came up a little short,” said Curtin, whose club flubbed an outside chance to host a first-round game and will be on the road regardless of Sunday’s outcome. “It’s the past, though. We have to look forward to the challenge that Red Bulls will present. They are the perfect team to play in terms of a tuneup, to get up to speed with the tempo of a playoff game. It’ll be good for our guys, we’ll use that to get prepared.”

2. Refreshing the lineup
Because Sunday’s match comes just days before the Union’s midweek postseason game, Curtin could look to rest some starters against the Red Bulls, especially the injured ones.

“There are discussions,” he said. “You have to do what’s best. Maybe it’s a new face, a change or a tweak. We won’t change our formation, we won’t change the style that we play but maybe there’s a new body that comes out on the field and gives us a little bit of a lift.”

But Curtin’s team doesn’t just need a lift, it needs healthy bodies. C.J. Sapong suffered a concussion against Orlando City and will likely sit out Saturday. If he does, Charlie Davies could see a chunk of playing time. Davies has only played 81 minutes in eight games since being acquired by the Union in August.

Tranquillo Barnetta and Chris Pontius are also banged up with lower-body ailments.

“Charlie’s been a little bit sharper each day in training,” Curtin said. “It’s tough to forget that he as recently as a month and a half ago was beating cancer so, the sharpness and the fitness is starting to come back. He wants to start, he wants to play, like any striker does, but we have to be smart about what makes the most sense for the team to get a result this weekend.”

3. Mighty Red Bulls
With the Red Bulls already locked into a first-round playoff bye, claiming the top seed in the East, they could float into Sunday’s match like it’s an exhibition — resting starters and providing minimal effort. 

But while riding an unbeaten streak that dates back to early July, the Red Bulls aren’t likely to pull their foot off the gas just yet.

“It’s a challenging game for us,” Curtin said. “It’ll be a high tempo, playoff atmosphere. With Red Bull already securing their bye, I envision them playing their full-strength lineup because they don’t want to rest guys for two weeks, and then you could have some rust. We expect their best.”

Though the Red Bulls want to keep things moving Sunday, the Union also want to finish the season strong. Although the match doesn’t hold the importance it could have for either club, Curtin’s team, winless since late August, is grasping for anything it can to catapult itself into the postseason with momentum. 

“We want to finish the season the right way for our fans,” Curtin said. “We want to come out with some confidence after the game.”

4. Keep an eye on …
Union: With Sapong hobbled from a concussion, Sunday’s match could put Charlie Davies’ effort on display. The forward, who has been seldom used as he regains conditioning after beating cancer earlier in the year, was acquired by the Union for this exact scenario — providing quality attacking depth.

Red Bulls: Although the match is practically meaningless for the Red Bulls, it could mean something for Bradley Wright-Phillips. The 31-year striker could claim his second golden boot in three seasons. He currently leads MLS with 23 goals — one ahead of David Villa. He has a goal and an assist against the Union this season and 11 goals in his last nine games.

5. This and that
• The Union are 0-1-1 against the Red Bulls this season but did score a win in the U.S. Open Cup round of 16.

• The result of Sunday’s match will leave the Union with one of three postseason road opponents — New York City FC, Montreal Impact and D.C. United. The match will be played the following Wednesday or Thursday.

• With a win on Sunday, the Union would match a club-high in wins with 12 — a record set in 2013.