Owls lack scoring punch in loss to No. 21 UConn

ap-temple-quenton-decosey.jpg

Owls lack scoring punch in loss to No. 21 UConn

BOX SCORE

They were struggling to win before. And that's when Quenton DeCosey was making more than half of everything he threw at the basket.

The Temple Owls failed to follow up their upset win over No. 23 SMU, falling on Thursday night to No. 21 UConn, 68-55, at the Liacouras Center (see Instant Replay).

The loss drops Temple to 7-18 this season and a 2-11 in the American. Temple's 18 losses are tied for its most under Dunphy -- the 2006-07 Owls had 18 his first year -- and are also tied for the most in his 25-year coaching career.

"We're in a stretch where [we're playing] five Top 25 teams in a row," Dunphy said.

"I think, we've looked at it, we will have played 12 times against teams that have been in the Top 25 at some point during the course of the year. But that's what you want, you want that challenge, and we've been presented with that."

DeCosey led the way with a team-high 16 points on 5 for 15 shooting. Nothing any of the Owls did Thursday could be called efficient. Temple went 19 for 56 shooting from the field (33.9 percent) and 5 for 18 from three (27.8 percent).

Though the defense was much improved from the last time these two teams played -- when Temple let UConn score 90 en route to a 24-point loss -- it was the offense that cost the Owls this time around.

Temple went through two different stretches -- one lasting 6:27 and one lasting 9:48 -- without a field goal.

"We struggled to score against a really good defensive team," Dunphy said. "[UConn center] Amida Brimah changed a bunch of shots, but we had our share of open looks from the perimeter. Obviously, we didn't do a great job of knocking some of those down.

"There were other times when we had some poor choices. We needed to come to jump stops, and look for more drive-and-kicks than we did trying to drive all the way to the rim."

Still, Dunphy said he was pleased with most of the looks. His team just couldn't knock down its open shots.

DeCosey went 0 for 5 from three and senior leading scorer Dalton Pepper was a disastrous 4 for 18 from the field. DeCosey did, however, grab a career-high eight rebounds.

It's been a tough stretch for DeCosey, who started the season so well. After a poor opening game against Penn, the sophomore wing ripped off a 13-game stretch in which he was shooting 52.5 percent from the field. He had scored in double figures in 17 straight games.

But in his last nine outings, in which Temple has gone 2-7, DeCosey has made only 37 of his last 118 attempts (31.3 percent).

Dunphy has been leaning on DeCosey -- and Pepper, for that matter -- heavily. During a five-game stretch in January, he had played 198 of 200 minutes, participating in three straight games in which he never came off the floor.

"I'm just in a little slump," DeCosey said, "but I'm trying to work hard every day and doing whatever I can to get out of it."

DeCosey, like Dunphy, was asked about Temple's schedule, especially this murderer's row of five straight games against the Top 25.

"It's a tough schedule. It's a change coming from the A-10 to this conference," DeCosey said.

Temple was 5-5 before opening league play. The Owls are now 2-11 in the American and have dropped 13 of 15 games since closing 2013 at .500.

"After we got a couple of losses, we kind of got down on ourselves, started feeling sorry for ourselves," DeCosey said. "We stopped competing hard every night."

"During the SMU game, we kind of got that back, and we're trying to carry that over through the end of the season."

Temple has just five regular-season games remaining. The Owls visit No. 24 Memphis and No. 11 Louisville before returning home for games against Houston and UCF and finally finishing at USF.

The inaugural American Athletic Conference tournament tips off in Memphis on March 12.

The Owls currently find themselves tied for last place in the league with UCF. USF sits just barely ahead at 3-11.

All 10 conference teams make the tournament. And half of those might end end up going to the real tournament.

"It's been a tough road to hoe," Dunphy said, "but we've got more in store."

Villanova takes over No. 1 ranking in AP Top 25 poll

Villanova takes over No. 1 ranking in AP Top 25 poll

For the second time in school history — both in the last 10 months — Villanova is No. 1 in the country.

The 8-0 Wildcats received 57 of 65 first-place votes in the AP poll, moving ahead of previous No. 1 Kentucky, which lost 97-92 to UCLA on Saturday. (UCLA moved up to No. 2; Kentucky dropped to No. 6.)

Villanova had a pair of Big 5 games last week, beating Penn by 25 at the Palestra and St. Joe's by 31 at The Pavilion.

Dating back to last season, Villanova has won 14 straight games and a national championship. Jay Wright's team has won 19 of its last 20.

The Wildcats have been led by seniors Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins. Hart opted to forego the NBA draft and return to school after winning the title and, so far, the decision has paid off. His shooting percentages are up significantly and if he keeps it up, his draft stock will reflect that improvement. Hart is shooting a career-best 58 percent from the field and is up to 43 percent from three. As productive as Hart was last season, his long-distance shooting had dropped from 46 percent as a sophomore to 36 percent as a junior.

Hart is averaging 17.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists. Jenkins is averaging 14.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists. Jenkins has carried the confidence of his championship-winning three over into this season. He's shooting 45 percent from three and 94 percent from the line. 

Villanova plays twice this week, vs. La Salle (4-2) on Tuesday and vs. ACC-leading Notre Dame (8-0) Saturday.

Temple receives votes
Temple (6-2) was unranked but received three votes. Based on the votes received by other teams, it makes Temple the de facto No. 36 team in the country.

The Owls have won five in a row, including victories over then-No. 25 Florida State, then-No. 19 West Virginia, and two Big 5 wins last week over St. Joe's and Penn.

Temple faces George Washington on Wednesday and DePaul Saturday.

Resurgent Penn State headed to Rose Bowl vs. USC

usa-brandon-bell-james-franklin.jpg
USA Today Images

Resurgent Penn State headed to Rose Bowl vs. USC

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State players and coaches rolled hopefully back into Happy Valley on Sunday, greeted as Big Ten champions by cheers and honking car horns.

They got off the team bus, filed into a meeting room and huddled around a giant projector screen as the College Football Playoff selection committee made its picks.

As the contenders were announced, it became clear -- this unexpectedly triumphant season was going to fall frustratingly short of college football's biggest stage.

The fifth-ranked Nittany Lions -- winners of nine straight, including a huge comeback against No. 8 Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game -- won't be part of the four-team playoff. Despite a head-to-head win against No. 2 Ohio State, the Big Ten title and a run fueled by one of the country's most explosive offenses, Penn State was ranked fifth by the selection committee.

Instead of playing for a national title, Penn State (11-2) will face No. 9 Southern California (9-3) in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2.

"I would say there were a handful of guys that obviously showed a little bit of frustration and body language and things like that," Penn State coach James Franklin said. "But 99 percent of the guys in there are just excited about staying together as a family and being able to play in such a historic bowl game."

News about the bowl destination quelled a bit of that disappointment, and some, including quarterback Trace McSorley , tweeted their excitement with rose emojis Sunday.

Franklin didn't sleep much on the flight back from Indianapolis and is about to start a six-day recruiting trip, but he was still clearly amped for the Rose Bowl during a phone call with reporters -- even though he believed his team had done enough to go to the playoff by winning what he called "the toughest conference in football."

"Obviously, our guys would've loved to have the opportunity to go to the playoffs and compete for a national championship," Franklin said. "But like I said during the week, I thought our guys would be appreciative of the opportunity to be able to stay together as a family for another week and play the great game of football."

They'll do so against a team that's on a similar trajectory.

The Nittany Lions and Trojans have combined to win 17-straight games and are among the hottest teams in college football. Both have mounted striking turnarounds after ho-hum starts, energizing historically strong programs that had struggled with the weight of NCAA penalties in recent years.

Franklin arrived at Penn State in 2014 and took over a program heavily sanctioned by the NCAA for the university's role in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Although the Nittany Lions have a full scholarship load this season, they're still feeling the impact from reduced scholarship numbers and start just five seniors, with only 17 on the roster.

USC, meanwhile, incurred NCAA penalties, including the loss of 30 scholarships, in the wake of a scandal involving former football player Reggie Bush and basketball player O.J. Mayo, who the NCAA determined accepted gifts in the mid-2000s.

This will be the third time the programs match up in the Rose Bowl -- the first was in 1923 and the other in 2009.

"I think it makes for fabulous TV, that's for sure," USC coach Clay Helton said. "And it makes for a great bowl experience and that's what this time is all about."