Temple (5-9) loses again, Dunphy talks next year

Temple (5-9) loses again, Dunphy talks next year
January 11, 2014, 9:15 pm
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Quenton DeCosey can't do it alone -- he's the only Temple Owl to score in double figures every game this season. (AP)

Injury notes

Before the game, it looked as if Temple would have only seven players available vs. Memphis. The Owls finished with only seven vs. UCF Thursday night when Mark Williams couldn't go with a sprained ankle and Will Cummings left the game with concussion-like symptoms.

Cummings was cleared to play Saturday shortly before tip, and started. Per Temple, he was never officially diagnosed with a concussion. Williams took the floor on Temple's first substitution, coming out of the under-16 media timeout.

Williams got saddled with three early fouls and didn't score in nine minutes. Cummings scored 11 points with five assists and four turnovers in 29 minutes, but described his performance as not good.


Will Cummings ended up playing.

Mark Williams, too.

But for 40 minutes Saturday, Dalton Pepper and Quenton DeCosey never came off the floor. You can credit them for keeping it close.

Temple lost its fourth straight game Saturday, falling to No. 24 Memphis, 79-69, at the Liacouras Center (see Instant Replay). The Owls are now 5-9 overall and a winless 0-4 in the American. Temple's four-game losing streak to start league play is its longest in-conference drought under Fran Dunphy and the program's longest since 1982-83 -- the Owls' first year in the A-10 and John Chaney's first as head coach.

Two guys not at fault: Pepper and DeCosey, whom Memphis coach Josh Pastner referred to as studs.

They played all 40 minutes and combined for 42 points, going 15 of 30 from the field and 7 of 13 from three.

The rest of their teammates: 7 for 23 shooting.

"I like how we hung in the game," Pepper, who led all scorers with a game-high 24 points, said. "We hung in until the end."

They usually do. Eight of the Owls' nine losses this year are by 10 points or less.

"Every game we're right there," Pepper continued. "One or two more stops each game and we could be 12-1 or whatever it is. We're playing well, we just have to close out games and just fight to the end."

Of course, they're not 12-1 (or 13-1). Here's the head coach to explain why:

"We're still a work in progress," Fran Dunphy said. "I think we're putting ourselves in decent position but we're losing focus on a possession or two that changes the whole momentum of the game."

Case in point, Temple was up 49-48 with 13:46 to go. Coming out of a timeout, Temple decided to switch up its defensive look and try to trap Memphis with a 3-2 zone over halfcourt. Rather than stymie Memphis, that decision undid Temple.

The Tigers hit three straight threes to kick off a 17-6 run and never again surrendered the lead.

"We tried zone the one time and we just didn't get out quick enough on two [shooters]," Dunphy said. "I thought we needed to change the look up. We were hoping we would be OK with it and obviously it didn't work.

"They made shots, but I thought our coverage could have been better. I'll have to watch the film and see how we kind of screwed that up a little bit. But they made big shots at that stretch and it hurt us."

Those threes proved the beginning of the end, but it's unlikely Temple was going to be able to keep hanging tight anyway. The Owls were up one at the half and as much as four early in the second but were beaten way too badly on the glass to win.

Memphis forward Shaq Goodwin finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds, as the Tigers' frontcourt treated its Temple counterparts like it was a varsity-JV scrimmage. The Tigers outrebounded Temple, 45-28, and outscored the Owls, 42-26, in the paint. Memphis pulled down 16 offensive rebounds; Goodwin had eight by himself.

"He got them a lot of extra second-chance points, and I don't think we had any," Pepper said.

He's right. Memphis had 17. Temple zero.

"Certainly, offensive rebounding by the opposition hurt us today," said Dunphy, whose team continues to struggle with interior defense. "[Goodwin] is a tough matchup."

The Owls have given up 18 points and 10 rebounds to Penn's Darien Nelson-Henry, 32 and 10 to Towson's Jerrelle Benimon, 28 and 10 to UAB's C.J. Washington, (an absolutely preposterous) 48 and 8 to Texas Southern's Aaric Murray, 23 and 15 to UCF's Isaiah Skyes, 23 and 10 to USF's Victor Rudd, and 23 and 11 to Goodwin.

Temple center Anthony Lee has previously mentioned that maybe he, regardless of the depth Temple doesn't have to make up for it, should just start fouling more. Well, he did that Saturday, picking up two early personals and sitting for nine minutes in the first half. Williams and Devontae Watson picked up three each in five minutes and four minutes, respectively, leaving Jimmy McDonnell to play center in a four-guard offense for nearly half of the opening 20 minutes.

Had it not been for Temple's 8-for-16 performance from three -- almost all of which is owed to Pepper and DeCosey -- this would not have been a game.

It's a shame, and Pepper acknowledged as much after the game, that as he's finally getting a chance to shine in his final college season, his team isn't winning. Pepper came into the game as Temple's leading scorer with 16.7 points per game. He's gone for 19 or more in eight of Temple's 14 games, but he'll be done at the end of the season.

At least DeCosey (15.8 ppg), the only Owl to finish in double-figures in every game this season, is turning into the scorer Temple expected him to be, and will be around next season.

After Saturday's game was actually the first time Dunphy's mentioned next season. It's only Jan. 11 and there's still more than half the season (16 games) remaining, but maybe even he's starting to peak ahead. He was asked about the Owls' initial struggles in the American, and here's how he responded:

"We're still finding out who we are," he said. "The fact that we're in this league with some really good teams, we've had our opportunities to win games in the league and we haven't gotten it done, for whatever reason.

"I think we can be good in this league, and help is sort of on the way. I think where we are for next year's group, I like that. So, it's just one of those things right now where we're plugging away and trying to be the best team we can be."