Temple Plays Faux-Host to No. 53 Duke at Wells Fargo Tonight

Temple Plays Faux-Host to No. 53 Duke at Wells Fargo Tonight

As part of their pseudo-home-and-home agreement with the Duke University Blue Devils (12-1), the Temple Owls (9-3) will meet the fifth (or third) best team in country tonight at the Wells Fargo Center.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. (ESPN 2 / 1210 AM).

Injuries have played a big role in the Owls' season, but Temple will not look any more short-handed than when it takes the floor against Duke. With Mason Plumlee, Miles Plumlee and Ryan Kelly all checking into the game at 6-10 or more, Temple simply cannot match that height with only 6-9 freshman Anthony Lee and 6-6 junior Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson.

To make matters worse, Temple had its serious difficulties giving up dribble-penetration into the lane in its last outing, a 66-63 win over the Delaware Blue Hens. And while the Owls may have been able to overcome their struggles at both ends against lesser opponents like Delaware and Buffalo in games that went down to the wire, dealing with Austin Rivers, Seth Curry and all that height are altogether different obstacles.

For Temple to hang in this game, it will not only need to improve its perimeter defense, but also dramatically improve its jump shooting. Starting guards Juan Fernandez, Ramone Moore and Khalif Wyatt have gone a combined 29 for 92 (31.5%) over their last two games, while the team as a whole has shot well under 40%.

What has helped the Owls over that stretch is their fantastic work on the glass, nabbing more than 15 offensive rebounds in each of their last two games. But against the height of Duke, unless long rebounds start becoming super-long rebounds, the Owls may not have enough to speed to overcome the sheer size of the Duke frontcourt. Either way, the Temple guards will need to crash the glass hard and hopefully use their limited size to their advantage in generating extra possessions.

As for the glass at the other end, Temple is going to need to push the ball off every single defensive rebound. With the way they have struggled in the half court and the obstacles Duke will present inside, Temple has to do its real damage in transition—the Khalif Wyatt pull-up three, for example.

Sadly for the Owls, it is doubtful that Mike Kryzyzewski will make the same mistake Jay Wright did earlier this season in going small in an to attempt to better match up on defense. Duke is a big program and its bigs under the basket are its biggest strength against a team like Temple. Consequently, the Owls only recourse will be to fight like hell and use every bit of their speed and depth at the guard position to play a drastically different style than their opponent.

The first five to ten minutes are going to especially key for Temple in terms of setting the tone. They cannot afford to the play the basketball they have over their last two outings if they are going to have any shot at even staying with Duke, let alone beating them. If the guards can find their missing jumpers and Temple can use its small size to its advantage both in transition and crashing the offensive boards, than the undersized and undermanned Owls can give the Dukies a game. On the hand, if they start as slow and out of sync on offense as they have of recent, this one could be over early.

------------------Notes--------------------

Temple is not Afraid (is not Afraid)
Inspirational quotes from Juan Fernandez and Khalif Wyatt on tonight's game courtesy of Keith Pompey's ever-brilliant work on the Owls Inq. blog at Philly.com:

--  “I don’t think we are ever going to approach a game by saying let us lose by less points,” Temple point guard Juan Fernandez said. “No team should approach a game like that, especially not us. That’s not how we’ve done it in the past few years. And that’s not our mentality.

“We are practicing to beat Duke. And it will be a statement if we win.”

-- “We don’t do moral victories around here,” Temple guard Khalif Wyatt said. “We are trying to win. And we are going in thinking we can win and knowing we can win.

“We are confident. Coach [Fran Dunphy] is confident. And we are just going to prepare like we prepare for every game.”

Future Owls in Attendance?
Pompey is also reporting that recruits Rysheed Jordan (Vaux) and Jeremiah ("LUUUMP") Worthem (Math, Civics & Sciences) will be in attendance for tonight's game. Temple, Villanova and Maryland are all figured to by frontrunners for the 6-6 Jordan, while Temple has already offered (the also 6-6) Worthem a scholarship.

Home Sweet [Wells Fargo Center]
I was going to go off on this myself—and did touch on it toward the bottom of this post just a little bit yesterday—but John Lamb over at the OwlsBlog really nailed it with his thoughts on Temple signing up for more of a home-and-neutral than a true home-and-home.

That said, maybe the Owls should be grateful. I've become quite partial to that Liacouras Center unbeaten streak Temple has put together since its last loss at home to then-No. 1 Kansas in January 2010. No reason to waste that baby on the Blue Devils (code for "unlike Juan, Khalif and Marshall, I am afraid").

Taking on Duke with and without Lavoy Allen
Before this even begins, I am not, nor should anyone at this stage, even think about comparing a first-year Anthony Lee to a fourth-year Lavoy Allen.

With that out of the way, and with injuries to Scootie Randall and Michael Eric once more plaguing the Owls, this is the exact same Temple lineup that took on the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor last season, save, of course, for the Lee-Allen swap and the addition of freshman Will Cummings off the bench.

Again, this is not a Lee vs. Allen comparison because that would be wholly pointless. It is, however, a call to recognize just how invaluable Lavoy Allen was to this basketball team as the only man in the middle for those Temple supporters and Lavoy detractors who complained of the 6-9 power forward's soft play over the last two months of last season.

You're right, they would have stood a much better chance in double overtime against San Diego State had he fouled out with four to play in regulation (code for "you're wrong").

The Plumvi in a Pistachio Ad

Playing Blue Devil's Advocate:

When this post first went live, I actually had a few anti-Duke videos posted at the bottom and a picture of a t-shirt (now seen
to the right) which reads "Friends Don't Let Friends Root for Duke." I even took a cheap shot at them yesterday, posting a wholly unnecessary video of Jon Scheyer walking on three separate occasions just for laughs.

Frankly, it's as fun for some of us to root against Duke as it is for plenty of you to root for Duke (without any reasonable affiliation on either side). The Blue Devils are nothing short of the New York Yankees of college basketball, a comparison not without its limitations, but with some very real similarities built in once you tease it out.

But regardless of what you think about Blue Sox Nation (spineless bunch of frontrunners) or even the way in which the university recruits, Krzyzewski's methods are becoming harder to argue against in the current age of college athletics. I realize there are some legitimate grievances about just who Duke is and is not interested in when it comes awarding scholarships, and I am plenty sympathetic to those who may have felt or even currently feel slighted by the program.

That said, as far as the absolute top of the coaching world goes in today's game, Coach K's program at Duke could be nothing further than those team's put together by someone like John Calipari. The kids come in, play hard and, in many cases, graduate without a barrage of NCAA infractions. One-and-dones are the new reality in college basketball and its come time to accept that, which K ultimately has. He also appears, at least for now, to have accepted it without harming his program.

I add this section not because I'm really a Duke supporter, but because I realized how hypocritical it was to post an image of that t-shirt when I fully allow my very closest friend to root for Duke as he so pleases. Then again, he's also a Calipari fan. So, I guess these things don't have to make sense.

Relevant History
All-Time Series: Duke leads 18-9
Coach K vs. Temple: 11-1
Dunphy (at Temple) vs. Duke: 0-3
Streak: Duke has won last nine straight
Last Meeting: Duke won 78-61 at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 23, 2011. Kyle Singler led all scorers with 28, while Temple's Lavoy Allen posted a 17 and 13 double-double.
Last Meeting at Wells Fargo: Duke won 74-64 on January 9, 2008. Dionte Christmas led all scorers with 23, while Mark Tyndale had 20.

We'll see you post-game.

Best of NHL: Canadiens score 10 goals in rout of Avalanche

Best of NHL: Canadiens score 10 goals in rout of Avalanche

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty had four goals, Brian Flynn scored twice during a six-goal first period and the Montreal Canadiens routed the Colorado Avalanche 10-1 on Saturday night.

Flynn, Pacioretty and Artturi Lehkonen each scored against Calvin Pickard in the opening 7:12, and then Pacioretty, Paul Byron and Flynn each had a goal among the first four shots on Semyon Varlamov.

Pacioretty completed his hat trick in the second period and added another in the third to give the captain seven goals in his last four games.

Alexander Radulov and Jeff Petry also scored for Montreal, which has shown no drop-off without injured scoring leader and first-line center Alex Galchenyuk. Montreal outshot the Avs 36-16 (see full recap).

Malkin, Crosby lead Penguins past Lightning 4-3
TAMPA, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby had another eventful night.

The Penguins star returned after passing concussion protocol following a first-period hit to get his 20th goal, and that stoked Pittsburgh's rally for its latest victory.

Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both scored their second goals on third-period power plays, helping the Penguins come back to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 on Saturday.

Crosby was shaken up by Luke Witkowski's check with eight minutes to go in the first but returned for the start of the second period (see full recap).

Late barrage helps Blue Jackets beat Islanders 6-2
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Jack Johnson, Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones each had a goal and an assist as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the New York Islanders 6-2 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

Josh Anderson, Brandon Saad and Lukas Sedlak also scored for Columbus and Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves.

Josh Bailey and John Tavares scored for New York, which had earned a point in a season-high five straight games (4-0-1). Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves until he was pulled after the Blue Jackets scored four consecutive goals in the third period.

Anderson put Columbus ahead 3-2 at 2:19 when he picked off a defensive pass and banged it in from the slot seconds after coming onto the ice for his shift (see full recap).

Matthews, Hyman score in 2nd, Maple Leafs beat Bruins 4-1
BOSTON -- The Toronto Maple Leafs found a way to overcome a poor opening period.

Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman scored in the second period, Frederik Andersen made 32 saves and the Maple Leafs beat the Boston Bruins 4-1 on Saturday night.

"The last three games the first period kind of did us in," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. "We didn't start on time. We were able to hold on. It still wasn't the first period we wanted, but we didn't give up the goals and we were able to execute a little bit."

After managing only two shots on goal in the first, Toronto was happy to get to the dressing room with the game scoreless (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol and Tony Allen scored 19 points each and the Memphis Grizzlies rolled over the Golden State Warriors 110-89 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

The Grizzlies led by as many as 30 points in the second half - the biggest advantage by any Warriors opponent this season. Seven Memphis players finished in double figures.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 21 points, while Stephen Curry added 17 points and Ian Clark finished with 10 points. Curry and backcourt starter Klay Thompson (eight points) were a combined 8 of 28 from the field, including 3 of 14 outside the arc.

Memphis built a double-digit lead early, led 61-38 at halftime and kept building in the third quarter (see full recap).

Butler, Wade lead Bulls to 105-100 win over Heat
CHICAGO -- Jimmy Butler scored 31 points, Dwyane Wade added 28 against his former team and the Chicago Bulls held off the struggling Miami Heat 105-100 on Saturday night.

Butler scored Chicago's final 10 points to help the Bulls come out on top after Miami pulled within one.

Wade keyed a big third-quarter run in his second game against the Heat, and the Bulls hung on after handing San Antonio its first road loss two nights earlier.

Goran Dragic led Miami with 21 points and 11 assists. An energetic Hassan Whiteside added 20 points after being benched for part of Friday's blowout loss in Cleveland. Tyler Johnson scored 15, but the Heat dropped their fifth straight (see full recap).

LeBron scores 44, reaches assist mark as Cavs down Hornets
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 17 of his season-high 44 points in the fourth quarter and reached another career milestone as the Cleveland Cavaliers won their fourth straight, 116-105 over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night.

James did it all, adding 10 assists and nine rebounds in 43 minutes. He took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 straight during one stretch to help the Cavs hold on.

As the final seconds ticked off, James stood at midcourt and spun the ball on his index finger as the crowd roared.

James, who moved into ninth place on the career scoring list Friday, recorded his 7,000th assist in the first half, becoming the first frontcourt player in NBA history to reach the plateau. James is the only player with 27,000 points and 7,000 assists (see full recap).

George has 37 points to lead Pacers over Blazers 118-111
INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George scored a season-high 37 points to lead the Indiana Pacers over the Portland Trail Blazers 118-111 on Saturday night.

George made five 3-pointers, and Thaddeus Young hit six 3s while getting 24 points and nine rebounds. Myles Turner added 14 points for the Pacers, who had lost five straight regular season games to Portland.

C.J. McCollum made a career-high seven 3-pointers and had a season-best 34 points for the Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard had 33 points behind five 3s.

George scored 13 straight points in the fourth quarter for Indiana. He was fouled on the go-ahead basket with 4:36 remaining and completed the three-point play to give the Pacers a 108-105 lead (see full recap).