Temple Prepares for Central Michigan, Next Six Weeks without Michael Eric

Temple Prepares for Central Michigan, Next Six Weeks without Michael Eric

The Temple Owls have been lacking depth since starting the season without small forward Scootie Randall. Now they're really in trouble.

After injuring his right patella last Friday in practice, center Michael Eric is expected to miss the next six weeks, taking the Owls through mid-January without two senior starters. Though Randall's injury was difficult blow to a team who relies on his leadership and consistent play, life without him was at least workable. Moving through the rest of their out-of-conference docket without Eric won't be so easy.

They'll begin today when they host the Central Michigan Chippewas in their home opener at the Liacouras Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. and can be heard on 1210 AM.

With Scootie rehabbing from a torn meniscus and Eric working to heal the same right patella that ended his junior season in the month of February, Temple is now badly undermanned and undersized. The responsibly for guarding the basket on D and providing a down low presence on the offensive end now falls to red-shirt freshman Anthony Lee.

Seen fairly or unfairly as the direct successor to Lavoy Allen when recruited, Lee now finds himself in exactly the same position as a first-year player that Allen did as a fourth-year starter. The Owls were forced play the majority of their stretch run and the entirety of the 2011 Atlantic-10 tournament without Eric and Randall last season. For the next six weeks, they'll try to do it again with almost exactly the same roster, save for Lee in the place of Allen.

At 6-9 Lee is now the tallest player in rotation that features height at the guard position, but no one else over 6-6. To provide any height, coach Fran Dunphy may have to at some point turn to another red-shirt freshman in Jimmy McDonnell, who did not figure to be part of the Owls plans for this season just a month ago.

If Lee is the only option underneath, and understandably still has some development ahead of him at both ends of the court when it comes staying on the floor, then the Owls may be forced to play some five guard sets with the 6-6 Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson using his length to make up for the team's lack of size.

Whatever the set, the Owls are going to need a significant contribution from sophomore Aaron Brown. Brown saw some time at the end of last season filling in in exactly this same situation for an injured Owls squad, and showed flashes of very real talent. Dunphy told reporters at the team's media day last month that for Brown to help this incarnation of the Temple Owls, he needs to hit 3's—his particular forte—and not be a good, but a great defender. Unfortunately, Brown has found it a bit difficult to work into the flow at either end given his spotty minutes. Perhaps consistency will show up with an increase in time.

If not, then the Owls are about to find themselves in a very difficult position over the next six weeks. Upcoming meetings with Texas and Duke were daunting enough, and that was before they lost to Bowling Green last weekend. There is no game the team can feel overly confident about until Randall and Eric come back. In the meantime, they have to be careful not to drop so many games as to put due pressure on themselves to need to win the A10 tournament to secure an NCAA tournament berth.

Today's meeting with Central Michigan is the second of three consecutive MAC games for Temple. They typically have a very successful history against their football program's conference rivals. Prior to their defeat at Bowling Green last Sunday, the Owls had won 12-straight against the MAC and have held a 17-6 record against MAC teams since the 2006-2007 season, when their scheduling agreement with the conference (thanks to the football deal) first began.

What's left of the injured Owls will need to ban together to begin a new streak today.

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

NEW YORK -- John Wall had 29 points and 13 assists, scoring Washington's final four points in the last 32 seconds as the surging Wizards beat the New York Knicks 113-110 on Thursday night.

Otto Porter Jr. made six 3-pointers for the second straight night and added 23 points, but the Wizards needed big plays from Wall down the stretch to win their fourth in a row.

He made two free throws to put Washington back on top after New York had rallied to take a 110-109 lead, then rebounded Carmelo Anthony's miss and left all the Knicks in his dust as he raced down the floor for a dunk with 13.7 seconds to play.

Anthony finished with 34 points but Wall stole the ball from Brandon Jennings to prevent the Knicks from attempting a 3-pointer that could have tied it (see full recap).

Leonard scores 34 to lead Spurs over Nuggets
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points, rookie Dejounte Murray added a season-high 24 and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a pregame injury to Pau Gasol in beating the Denver Nuggets 118-104 on Thursday night.

Denver's three-game winning streak was snapped despite a career-high 35 points from Nikola Jokic.

Leonard had his fifth straight 30-point performance, right after learning he will start for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season.

The Spurs were unexpectedly without Gasol, Tony Parker and then coach Gregg Popovich. Gasol and Parker were both late scratches due to injury, and Popovich was ejected for the first time this season.

Gasol broke the ring finger on his left (non-shooting) hand by jamming it against Kyle Anderson's shoulder during pregame warmups while attempting a running hook. The 16-year veteran center immediately clutched his hand and left the court.

X-rays revealed the break, and the Spurs said there is no timeline for Gasol's return.

Irving, James lead Cavs over Suns
CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselves at home in a 118-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

The Cavs were back in Quicken Loans Arena following a six-game road trip (their longest of the season) that concluded with an embarrassing 35-point loss at Golden State. But on their home floor, they had better offensive balance and ball movement while improving to 30-11 -- the same record Cleveland had at the halfway point of its 2016 NBA championship season.

Channing Frye scored 18, Iman Shumpert 17 and James Jones 14 while filling in for star forward Kevin Love, still bothered by back spasms.

Tyson Chandler had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in five games (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Jay beagle, Brett Connolly, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored, and Alex Ovechkin and Daniel Winnik each had two assists to help Washington earn at least a point in its 12th straight game (10-0-2) for an NHL-best 66 points.

Braden Holtby bounced back from his roughest outing of the season with 22 saves. Holtby was pulled after giving up a season-high five goals on 26 shots in an 8-7 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. He improved to 22-8-4 and 5-0 lifetime against St. Louis (see full recap).

Grabner scores 2 goals, Rangers top Leafs
TORONTO -- Michael Grabner scored two goals against his former team, helping the New York Rangers snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller added goals for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves following a series of rough outings.

Tyler Bozak and Zach Hyman scored for Toronto, which had a three-game winning streak stopped. The Maple Leafs had earned 21 of a possible 26 points in their previous 13 games (10-2-1). Frederik Andersen gave up four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

Tavares leads Islanders to shutout of Stars
NEW YORK -- Getting a new coach this week didn't change things much for the Islanders -- and oddly enough, that's a good thing for New York.

John Tavares narrowly missed out on his second hat trick in a week, Thomas Greiss got his second straight shutout and the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Thursday night in their first game since firing longtime coach Jack Capuano.

New York canned Capuano in the middle of his seventh season Tuesday, replacing him on an interim basis with Doug Weight (see full recap).

Niederreiter, Wild dodge letdown, edge Coyotes
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter had two power-play goals and an assist, including the go-ahead score for the Minnesota Wild with 7:06 remaining in a 4-3 victory over Arizona on Thursday night after the Coyotes came back from a two-goal deficit.

With Shane Doan in the penalty box for hooking, Niederreiter knocked in a nifty redirect of Mikael Granlund's slap shot for the winner. Devan Dubnyk stopped 20 shots for the Wild, who are 18-2-2 in their last 22 games.

Louis Domingue made 21 saves for the Coyotes, who lost their fourth in a row and fell to 2-12-1 in their last 15 games starting with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota in Arizona on Dec. 17 (see full recap).