Owls lack scoring punch in loss to No. 21 UConn

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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."

Penn, Villanova back for more championships at Penn Relays

Penn, Villanova back for more championships at Penn Relays

Like many people who come from nearby high schools, Penn senior Chris Hatler has been running at the Penn Relays since he was 15. But his initial experience at the famed meet did not go exactly as planned

“The first relay ever, I fell in the first 100 meters,” he said, “and made a fool of myself.”

Such can be the dangers of overwhelmed teenagers competing at a competition that also features college and professional stars — a three-day track & field carnival that is the oldest and largest of its kind in the country.

But last year, Hatler became one of those college stars himself, helping Penn to a dramatic win in the 4xmile — the host school’s first win in that event since 1950 and its first championship in any of the meet’s marquee distance relays since 1974.

Now, with the 123rd running of the Penn Relays set to kick off in full Thursday — the same day that the NFL draft begins across town — Hatler is ready to add another wheel before graduating, along with fellow senior Nick Tuck.

“Last year was exciting to win the 4xmile, but I kinda felt like for the seniors last year, it was their win, it was their wheel,” said Hatler, who also helped the Quakers set a school record in last year’s distance medley relay. “I know Nick and I kinda have a little grudge here. We want our own wheel for ourselves our senior year. So we’re gonna come out and see what we can do.”

Although the USA vs. the World races Saturday to highlight the meet, the college relays are often the most exciting with wild sprints to the finish line occurring in front of packed Franklin Field crowds. Last year, in between Team USA races, then-senior Thomas Awad chased down two other runners in the 4xmile to give Penn the victory on national TV, before being mobbed by Hatler, Tuck and Keaton Naff. 

Hatler couldn’t quite see the track from where he was standing but had a feeling that Awad — one of the most accomplished athletes in Penn’s track & field history — would come through on the final lap of his Penn Relays career.

“You never bet against Tom at the end of the race,” said Hatler, who earlier this year cracked the 4-minute-mile barrier. “We kinda knew it was gonna happen.”

Few other people expected it because the host school hasn’t always been competitive in the college championships at Penn Relays. But another local school always is — Villanova.

And the Wildcats are glad to get some more competition from their Big 5 rival.

“It was thrilling for me to see it happen,” Villanova men’s track coach Marcus O’Sullivan said. “This is really the home school. We’re happy to be sharing the stress of Penn [Relays] every year with the real home school.”

As for his own team, O’Sullivan said the Wildcats are dealing with injuries so it may not be in top form for the men’s distance medley relay (Friday, 5:30 p.m.), men’s 4xmile (Saturday, 1:15 p.m.) and the men’s 4x800 (Saturday, 4:40 p.m.), the first two of which will be broadcast on NBC Sports.

But he touted the talent of redshirt freshman Logan Wetzel, among others, and seems ready to throw some youngsters into the fire.

“I always say Penn is a defining arena for kids to grow up,” said O’Sullivan, who ran the Penn Relays as a student at Villanova. “You really start to learn. You prepare a year for Penn. 

“My junior year, we were annihilated, lost everything, and it one of the most humiliating moments of my life because so much is expected of you and you drop the ball. I spent a whole year just waiting for Penn, just training for Penn. The year I made the Olympic team, I kid you not, running at Penn, winning at Penn, was way more important for me at that time of my life. That’s how big it is.”

Villanova women’s coach Gina Procaccio also ran the Penn Relays in college and has similar feelings about the significance of the meet. And she’s ready to lead her powerhouse teams to more championships in the women’s distance medley relay (Thursday, 5:30 p.m.), the women’s 4x1500 (Friday, 1:20 p.m.) and the women’s 4x800 (Saturday, 4:10 p.m.).

Those relay teams will be led by Angel Piccirillo, a fifth-year senior who redshirted last year, and junior Siofra Cleirigh Buttner — two of the best distance runners in the NCAA. But it won’t be easy for them as this year’s field will be stacked with the likes of Oregon and Stanford.

But no one has done better at Penn Relays than the Villanova women, who have won 14 DMRs all time, including four straight from 2012-2015.

“I’m not one to shy away from the competition,” Procaccio said. “I like to earn those wins.”

Big 5 Hall of Fame inducts 'maybe the greatest class we've ever put together'

Big 5 Hall of Fame inducts 'maybe the greatest class we've ever put together'

About midway through Monday night's Big 5 Hall of Fame ceremony, the oldest inductee of this year's class paid homage to the youngest.

That's how much hoops legend George Raveling, a 1960 Villanova graduate, was blown away by Penn alum Ibrahim Jaaber's impassioned speech that ended with a powerful poem about how basketball saved him.

"It kept running through my mind that you represent everything good about sports," Raveling said to Jaaber. "And I hope you'll continue to use your wisdom, your influence, to make the game better, to make the world better. As a 79-year-old-man, soon to be 80 in June, I want to tell you that if I come back in the next life, I want to be like you."

That touching moment, in many ways, was a perfect encapsulation of the ties that bind the Big 5, from one generation to the next. But aside from Raveling and longtime Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter Bill Lyon -- who, despite battling Alzheimer's, courageously gave an acceptance speech to a standing ovation at the Palestra -- this year's class was filled with contemporary guards who clashed in some great Big 5 games not too long ago.

Among them were two current NBA players in Saint Joseph's icon Jameer Nelson (class of 2004) and former 'Nova star Randy Foye (2006), as well as Temple's Lynn Greer (2002) and Jaaber (2007). La Salle women's player Carlene Hightower (2008) was the other member of the star-studded class defined by tough, gritty Philadelphia guards.

"The inductees here for the Hall of Fame have got to be maybe the greatest class we've ever put together," said Villanova head coach Jay Wright, who closed the night by accepting the Big 5 Coach of the Year award right after Josh Hart took home Player of the Year honors. "I grew up in Philadelphia and we always talk about what a great place the Palestra is -- and it is. But when you listen to Lynn, Randy, Coach Rav, Ibby, Jameer, you know why this is a great place. It's because of all the great man that have played here -- outstanding, humble, articulate, intelligent men that understand they're part of something that's bigger than themselves. That's what makes the Big 5. That's what makes the Palestra."

Nelson, the National Player of the Year during St. Joe’s historic 2003-04 season, certainly showed what kind of person he is, inviting all of his old Hawks teammates who were in attendance to stand behind him as he accepted his Hall of Fame award. And he even choked up at one point as he described what those teammates, coach Phil Martelli and Saint Joseph's University have meant to him as he's forged a long and fruitful NBA career.

"Without them, none of this would be possible," said Nelson, the Hawks' all-time leader in points (2,094) and assists (713). "These guys mean the world to me."

Nelson, now with the Denver Nuggets, just wrapped up his 13th season in the NBA, calling it an "unbelievable ride" for a 5-foot-11 kid from Chester. That's two more years spent in the league than Foye, who Nelson thanked for forcing him to be better back in their college days. He also called Greer one of his "great friends" and said that Jaaber's speech "touched me in so many different ways, I wish more young kids could hear it."

"I'm very grateful to be inducted with you guys," Nelson said, although he did point out that when he was at St. Joe's, the Hawks had Villanova down 43-9 at halftime one year. 

"But those next couple years, we paid y'all back," said Foye, now with the Brooklyn Nets, during his own speech.

Those rivalries were especially meaningful to Foye, who also played against Jaaber in both high school and college.

"Being from North Jersey, you never hear about the Big 5," said Foye, a first-team All-American and Big 5 Player of the Year in 2006. "For me coming here and witnessing it up close and personal, it's just something truly amazing."

Foye added that everywhere he goes, he tries to embody what a Philly guard is -- "small but play big," as he put it -- while reminding people that he's proud to be a Villanova alum. The same can be said of Raveling, a longtime college coach and executive who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015.

"I'm so proud to say I'm a Big 5 product -- and a proud graduate of Villanova University," Raveling said. "I look back many times and realize the wisest decision I ever made in my lifetime was to enroll at Villanova University."

Just as he opened his speech, Raveling also closed it by saying he was "proud" to enter the Big 5 Hall of Fame the same year as Jaaber, whose remarks touched on spirituality, family and a unique journey from Morocco to New Jersey to Penn.

Jaaber also made sure to thank the person who perhaps embodies the Big 5 more than anyone else: former La Salle player, former Penn coach and current Temple coach Fran Dunphy.

"I don't think I could have had a better coach for me in my situation than my Coach Dunphy," said Jaaber, the 2006-07 Big 5 Player of the Year and the all-time Ivy League leader in steals (303). "I'm almost embarrassed to be inducted into the Hall of Fame before Coach Dunphy."