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.

Aaron Rodgers tosses 3 TDs to help Packers pull away from Bears

Aaron Rodgers tosses 3 TDs to help Packers pull away from Bears


GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers set a record. The Chicago Bears lost another quarterback.

After a slow start in the red zone, the Green Bay Packers picked up the pace in the second half to overpower their offensively-challenged NFC North rivals.

Rodgers threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns, Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery emerged as playmakers in the second half and Packers beat the Bears 26-10 on Thursday night.

Rodgers was 39 of 56, setting a franchise mark for completions in a game. It was the Packers' first contest without injured running back Eddie Lacy .

"A lot of moving parts, a very satisfying victory at home," coach Mike McCarthy said.

The Packers (4-2) moved effectively on short gains most of the night, but couldn't break into the end zone until Adams caught the first of his two touchdown receptions with 9:11 left in the third quarter for a 13-10 lead.

Rodgers and Adams combined again for a 4-yard score on the first play of fourth quarter for a 10-point lead.

The Bears (1-6) lost quarterback Brian Hoyer to a broken left arm in the second quarter. With Jay Cutler already out with a right thumb injury, Chicago turned to third-stringer Matt Barkley.

An offense that was already 31st in the league in scoring got worse. Barkley was 6 of 15 for 81 yards and two interceptions.

"Well, when you lose your starting quarterback it can be disruptive," Bears coach John Fox said. "It's not an excuse, it's just a reality,"

He tried to lean on the rush against the NFL's third-best run defense. It didn't work either.

Kadeem Carey had 48 yards on 10 carries, including a 24-yarder. Receiver Alshon Jeffery was held to three catches for 33 yards against a Packers secondary without its top three cornerbacks because of injuries.

It got so bad for the Bears that Rodgers had more completions (37) than the Bears had offensive plays (36) by 5:31 of the fourth quarter.

That 37th completion for Rodgers was a 2-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb for a 16-point lead.

Adams, Montgomery and Cobb each finished with at least 10 receptions.

Hoyer hurt
Hoyer left early in the second quarter after getting hit by Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews on an incompletion on third-and-6 from midfield. The right-handed Hoyer looked as if he landed on his left arm . He was attended to by trainers on the field for a couple minutes before going to the locker room. Hoyer was 4 of 11 for 49 yards.

Triple threat
Adams had 13 catches for a career-high 132 yards, making Jordy Nelson-like moves to spin out of tackles for extra yards. Adams had just been cleared earlier Thursday from the NFL's concussion protocol after leaving the loss Sunday to Dallas.

Cobb finished with 11 catches for 95 yards.

Montgomery, who got the start in the backfield with running backs Lacy (ankle) and James Starks (knee) out, finished with 10 catches for 66 yards, and nine carries for 60 yards.

"You do what you have to do, you play the way you have to play," McCarthy said.

Big Floyd
The Bears' only touchdown came from rookie pass-rushing linebacker Leonard Floyd, who forced Rodgers to fumble on third-and-10 from the 15 on a sack. Floyd recovered the ball in the end zone for a 10-6 lead, 30 seconds into the third quarter.

Floyd had been limited in practice this week with a calf injury.

"He's got those kind of abilities. It's been problematic a little bit having him out there, but it was good to have him back out there tonight," Fox said.

The Packers scored touchdowns on their next three drives.

Slow start
The Packers moved effectively with short passes in the first half but stalled on three drives inside the 22. Mason Crosby salvaged two series with field goals, but the Packers went scoreless on another drive when Montgomery was stopped on a fourth-and-goal run from the 1.

Green Bay, which led 6-3 at the half, exploited the Bears' underneath coverage. They also threw short passes as a substitute for the running game.

"It means we threw it a lot. But a lot of times records like these are achieved in losses when you're way behind," Rodgers about his completions record.

Injury report
Bears: Besides Hoyer, RG Kyle Long left in the second quarter with an arm injury.

Packers: RB Don Jackson, who was just activated from the practice squad Thursday to replace Lacy, left in the first quarter with a hand injury.

MLB Playoffs: Cubs beat Dodgers, move one win away from World Series

MLB Playoffs: Cubs beat Dodgers, move one win away from World Series


LOS ANGELES -- One win away. Two chances at home. Seven decades of waiting.

The Chicago Cubs closed in on their first World Series trip since 1945 by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 on Thursday in Game 5 of their National League playoff.

Jon Lester pitched seven sharp innings, Addison Russell hit a tiebreaking homer and the Cubs grabbed a 3-2 lead in the NL Championship Series.

On deck, a pair of opportunities to wrap up that elusive pennant at Wrigley Field.

"The city of Chicago has got to be buzzing pretty much right now," manager Joe Maddon said. "We're not going to run away from anything. It's within our reach right now."

The Cubs' first opportunity to clinch comes Saturday night in Game 6, when Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw faces major league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks.

"That's a game we expect to win," Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said.

Of course, the Cubs were in the same favorable position 13 years ago -- heading home to Wrigley with a 3-2 lead in the NLCS.

But even with ace pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood starting the final two games, Chicago collapsed against the Marlins in one of its most excruciating failures.

More than a decade later, the franchise is still chasing its first World Series championship since 1908.

"We've heard the history," center fielder Dexter Fowler said, "but at the same time we're trying to make history."

Budding star Javier Baez was in the middle of everything for the Cubs, a common theme this October. The second baseman made a sensational defensive play when the game was still close in the seventh, and his three-run double capped a five-run eighth that made it 8-1.

After busting out of his postseason slump Wednesday, Russell hit a two-run homer for the second straight game. This one was a sixth-inning drive off losing pitcher Joe Blanton that gave Chicago a 3-1 lead.

"Just rounding the bases, it was pretty exciting," Russell said. "Pumped up, not only for myself but for the team and that little cushion that Jonny had to go forward from that."

Baez had three of Chicago's 13 hits, matching the team's total in Game 4, when the Cubs snapped a 21-inning scoreless streak and won 10-2.

Lester allowed one run and five hits, improving to 2-0 in three playoff starts this year. He has given up two runs in 21 innings.

The left-hander struck out six and walked one in a slow-paced game that lasted 4 hours, 16 minutes.

"These guys won the game for us," Lester said, nodding toward Russell and Baez. "I was just kind of along for the ride."

Anthony Rizzo's run-scoring double gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the first.

Los Angeles tied it in the fourth on Adrian Gonzalez's RBI groundout.

Russell homered on an 0-1 pitch from Blanton, who gave up a single to Baez leading off the sixth. Baez stole second before Russell's shot to left-center put the Cubs ahead on another unusually hot night at Dodger Stadium.

Blanton took his second loss of the series. The veteran right-hander gave up consecutive homers in the eighth inning of Game 1, including a tiebreaking grand slam by pinch-hitter Miguel Montero.

"Our confidence hasn't wavered," Roberts said. "This series certainly isn't over."

With the Dodgers trailing 3-1 in the seventh, Gonzalez found himself on the wrong end of a replay review for the second consecutive night.

With Baez playing way out on the outfield grass in shallow right, the slow-footed Gonzalez tried to take advantage with a drag bunt leading off the inning. Baez rushed in for a barehanded scoop and off-balance throw, but Gonzalez initially was called safe by first base umpire Ted Barrett. The Cubs challenged and the ruling was overturned.

In Game 4, Gonzalez was tagged out at home to end the second after diving with his left hand stretched toward the plate while catcher Willson Contreras applied a tag. The Dodgers challenged, but the video review upheld umpire Angel Hernandez's out call.

Chicago jumped on struggling Dodgers rookie Kenta Maeda from the start. Fowler singled leading off the game and scored on Rizzo's double to right two batters later.

Maeda gave up one run and three hits over 3 2/3 innings. The right-hander has allowed eight earned runs in 10 2/3 innings this postseason.

The Dodgers' defense fell apart in the eighth.

Gonzalez tried flipping Russell's slow roller to reliever Pedro Baez, who came over to cover first and bobbled the ball for an error.

Contreras followed with a pinch-hit single, and the runners moved up on pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr.'s sacrifice bunt. Fowler reached on an infield single to first, with Gonzalez losing a foot race when Fowler slid into the bag as Russell scored.

Kris Bryant reached on an infield single to third, with the Dodgers unsuccessfully challenging the call that he was safe.

The Dodgers thought they'd finally escaped the inning when Rizzo lined out to second baseman Kike Hernandez, who nearly doubled up Fowler at second. But the Cubs challenged the call and it was reversed, prolonging the inning.

Baez got yanked after walking Ben Zobrist to load the bases. Ross Stripling came on to face Baez, who doubled to deep right, driving in three more runs.

"We can grab that momentum by one name: Kershaw," Gonzalez said. "We don't want to put it all on him, but if we score a couple of runs, we'll feel real good."

Scully returns
Vin Scully was back at Dodger Stadium for the first time since ending his 67-year career behind the microphone earlier this month.

The 88-year-old Hall of Fame announcer attended as a spectator and proclaimed, "It's time for Dodger baseball!" from an upstairs suite.

Cubs outfielder Matt Szczur isn't on the NLCS roster, but he's contributing. A day after his bat was borrowed by Rizzo to hit a home run, Szczur revealed during an in-game TV interview that Russell wore a pair of his underwear leggings Wednesday after leaving his own at home.

Up next
Dodgers: Kershaw takes the mound in Chicago on an extra day of rest. The left-hander is 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance this postseason. Overall, the three-time Cy Young Award winner is 4-6 with a 4.39 ERA in 17 career playoff appearances.

Cubs: Hendricks' 2.13 ERA was tops in the majors this season. The right-hander allowed a solo homer in 5 1/3 innings of Game 2, his longest career postseason start. The Cubs lost 1-0 to Kershaw.