Not Technically a Big 5 Game: Temple Hosts La Salle

Not Technically a Big 5 Game: Temple Hosts La Salle

It seems as though every Temple-St. Joe-La Salle confrontation is always preceded by the question, "Is this the Big 5 game, or no?" Should you be unable to attend or watch tonight's game, fret not; it is not the Big 5 game. That showdown is scheduled for Feb. 22 from inside the Tom Gola Arena.

Tonight's contest, on the other hand, is a nonetheless important Atlantic 10 matchup, one that will take place from inside the Liacouras Center on the campus of Temple University. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. (1210 AM).

Storylines after the jump...

Temple out to Start New Streak and Bounce Back from Loss
This evening's game will be Temple's first at the Apollo since forfeiting its 25-game-home-unbeaten streak to the Dayton Flyers on Jan. 7.

Since that time, Temple split a two game road trip with a hard fought win over St. Louis and unfortunate beatdown at the hands of the Richmond Spiders.

They'll be looking to get back into the win column, both at home and in general, when they take on a vastly improved Explorer team tonight.

Is La Salle for Real?
So here's the question, just how improved are they are they? La Salle is a markedly different team from last year for one key reason -- defense. Somehow, amidst all the shouting and swearing and chair punching, Dr. John Giannini has gotten this group of Explorers to buy in on the defensive end. At 13-5 and 2-1 in the A10, there's no question, they are better this year than last.

That said, tonight should be a good gauge of just how much better. It's been said that you can only beat the teams who are on your schedule; and the Explorers have done that. It's just that those teams have been pretty bad.

Let's play a game: scroll down the La Salle season schedule and pick out their marquee out-of-conference win. If you can even decide on a game, ask yourself how impressive that win really was.

Look, we're not knocking the Explorers just for the hell of it. Honestly, we're actually pretty excited that they're 13-5. We love a strong Big 5. But La Salle is going to need more than just one win over a post-fight Xavier team to get us fully on board that they have the ship totally righted. A win over Temple tonight would go a long way in doing that.

Michael Eric Injury Update
He's back tonight? Wait, no he's not? What do you mean "maybe?"

Temple center Michael Eric is questionable for this evening's matchup. The 6-10 senior has missed the last two months of action after re-injuring the same patella that ended his junior season. The Owls had hoped to have him back by the beginning of January, but that obviously didn't happen.

Word getting around is that Eric really could play tonight. If not, there has been chatter this week that he will return to the lineup against Maryland on Saturday.

Don't Cry for Me, Argentina
Juan Fernandez has been….eh, not good lately. Though his jumper looked like it had returned to form earlier this season after a dreadful junior campaign, things have taken a turn for the worse as of late. Barring the Dayton game in which he went 6-11, Fernandez has made just 13 of his last 54 attempts -- a shooting percentage of 24%. True, he's still averaging double-digit points, but not with any efficiency.

If we may make a suggestion, stop forcing what isn't there. Too often, Juan will make up his mind that he's going to basket, only to heave up an ugly one-handed scoop shot because he never had the proper lane to get there and finish. There's no problem with the kid trying to shoot his way out of funk by taking his share of good looks, but the ill-advised drives aren't helping. As for his teammates, there is at least one Temple Owl whom we wish to see taking it to the rack Moore.

Beware the Dayton Flyer?
Both La Salle and Temple have dropped games within the last two weeks to the Dayton Flyers. As mentioned above, Dayton was the first program to beat Temple at the Liacouras Center since Jan. 2010; the Flyers also snapped La Salle's six game winning streak over the weekend.

Are these losses the sign of a strong A10, or is Dayton the team to watch in 2012?

Shoot the J, Shoot it
Both teams shoot the ball well from three (Temple: 39.5%, La Salle 39.7%). Although we've been harping about La Salle's commitment to defense, it should be noted that, despite their struggles to guard the basket and lane, Temple remains one of their better perimeter defenses in college -- holding opponents to just 30.3% from behind the arc.

Something will have to give in this matchup. Which team will get hot? Which team will go cold? Can Temple's perimeter defense shut down the La Salle shooters? Are La Salle's defensive statistics a product of their schedule? Will Temple's Khalif Wyatt go for 20+ for the fifth straight game?

We'll find out tonight.

Relevant History
All-Time Series: Temple leads 70-40
At Temple: Temple leads 12-5
Dunphy vs. La Salle: 22-6
Giannini vs. Temple: 3-11
Streak: Owls have won each of the last five meetings
Last Meeting: Temple eliminated La Salle from the 2011 Atlantic 10 tournament with a 96-76 win at Boardwalk Hall. Temple's Ramone Moore led all scorers with 23, while Aaric Murray posted a team-high 22 for the Explorers. Lavoy Allen also chipped in with a 14 and 12 double-double for the Owls. Only one of those players will be on the floor tonight.

Sixers fail to take care of business against Denver Nuggets

Sixers fail to take care of business against Denver Nuggets

It really felt like we could've gotten this one. The Denver Nuggets are hardly pushovers, but they came into this one a 7-13 team that'd lost their last three games, and even last night they seemed fairly beatable, even for a Philadelphia 76ers team still missing Robert Covington (in additional to our usual mini-roster of absentees). But Philly's energy sagged in the third quarter as Denver caught a second wind, and they spent the final frame hitting shots that the Sixers couldn't answer. Final score: Nuggets 106, 76ers 98. 

The most sobering part of the loss was that Joel Embiid finally played what would best be described as "a bad game." Not that bad, of course — even at his worst, Joel still managed 16 points and notched career-high five blocks. But he only shot 5-15 from the field, turned ball over three times, grabbed just four boards and played a large part in the sinkhole offense that the Sixers played in the late third and early fourth that ultimately cost them this one. JoJo still has trouble reading double teams and knowing when not to attack into traffic, and his frustration was extremely evident as he kept trying to do too much and paying the price for it. 

Nonetheless, even with an off Embiid night and a still-slumping Sauce — officially down to Left in the Car Overnight temperature after a night of 4 points on 1-7 shooting in 35 minutes — Philly probably still coulda gotten this one. Sergio Rodriguez appears to have swiped Nik's swag at least temporarily, with a season-high 17 points on 7-14 shooting to go with seven dimes and three steals, while Dario Saric and Ersan Ilyasova also poured in 17 and 8 each, and the Nuggets wings were largely kept quiet for two and a half quarters. But even while struggling, the Nuggets paraded their way to free-throw line — 34 FTAs for the night, including 12 for Danilo Gallinari alone — and once they caught fire late, the Sixers just couldn't keep up. 

A bummer for a team that's now lost seven in a row, and has to face the Grizzlies tonight in Memphis — their fourth game in five nights, and the first of a three-game road trip — without Embiid and also without Jahlil Okafor, out with illness. Even with the Grizz missing their own big names (no Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons, Zach Randolph or Vince Carter lately) and likely suffering from fatigue of their own after a double-OT road win last night in New Orleans, the 4-17 Sixers are gonna have a tough go matching Memphis' grit and grind tonight. Anytime you feel like Supermanning in and saving the day now would be cool, Nerlens Noel. Just sayin'.

Sixers name Elton Brand as Player Development Consultant

Sixers name Elton Brand as Player Development Consultant

Elton Brand is back with the Sixers, albeit not on the court.

The Sixers agreed with the former NBA forward to name Brand Player Development Consultant. In a press release, the team said Brand will be working with Sixers players in 'every facet of their on- and off-court development' while also working in the front office.

“We are extremely excited to bring Elton Brand back into the organization where he will be a valuable resource to our young and developing team," Bryan Colangelo said in the release. "Elton’s leadership and character displayed throughout his playing career as a player align perfectly with our vision, direction and culture of this basketball team, coaching staff and management group."

Brand retired during training camp after 17 NBA seasons, including five with the Sixers over two stints. The 6-foot-8 forward came out of retirement last season to provide a veteran presence for the Sixers and eventually played in 17 games when the team was snakebitten by injuries. 

He will now continue to be an influence on the Sixers' young core thanks to his new role with the basketball operations department.