Temple Pulls out Road Win over Delaware, Though Struggles Persist

Temple Pulls out Road Win over Delaware, Though Struggles Persist

Make it two in a row for the Temple Owls when it comes to playing and winning needlessly troublesome basketball games. While Buffalo was admittedly a bad matchup on Wednesday given the Owls' lack of size under the basket, Delaware's considerably shorter lineup should have never been an issue.

Alas, it was, as Temple barely escaped the Carpenter Center on Friday night 66-63, notching their 17th straight victory over the Blue Hens.

Delaware sophomore Devon Saddler led all scorers with 18, but could not hit an off-balance three-point attempt to tie the game as time expired. He, along with freshman guard Jarvis Threatt, made life difficult for the Owls in the second half, repeatedly beating the Temple perimeter defense off dribble-drives to the basket.

"On the defensive end, we're still struggling a little bit," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said during his post-game interview. "We've got to be better in terms of keeping people out of the lane.

"One time, Juan [Fernandez] gave up a dribble-penetration move by Saddler, and we've got to be better at keeping people in front of us without fouling. So, we'll continue to work at that, but we need to be better on defense."

Unlike Saddler, who was consistent all night only to come up short at the end, Temple's Khalif Wyatt went just 1 for 10 from the field before nailing home a three to put the Owls up one with 35 seconds remaining. He then snagged a defensive rebound off a missed Kyle Anderson jumper, and eventually found himself at the foul line, where he drained both of his free throws to put Temple ahead by three with just six seconds left on the game clock.

His struggles earlier in the night aside, neither Wyatt's coaches nor his teammates had any doubt in his capabilities when it came time for junior guard to make the play that would ultimately win the
game for Temple.

"My teammates told me to keep shooting," said Wyatt when asked if his
confidence was shaken after his 1 for 10 start. "The coaches on the
sideline told me to keep shooting. That the last shot was over. They
kept trusting me. [Ramone Moore] gave me the ball. He trusted me at the end of
the game and...I just shot it."

"I wasn't surprised that he made it," Dunphy said of the shot. "I wasn't
surprised that he took it. And I wasn't surprised that Ramone had the
presence of mind to set him up like he did. Ramone had great confidence in
Khalif and he came through."

"The reality is, with [Wyatt, Fernandez and Moore]...somebody asked me a question as to why we gave the ball to Khalif at the end of the Buffalo game. You can almost take turns with all three of those guys. They all can make plays. They all can make shots. They all have the confidence in themselves to do good work. So, it doesn't make much difference who's going to take that shot at end."

And while their coach is right that they have all demonstrated their abilities to close at the end of a game, they have also produced their share of cold stretches. Much like Wednesday against Buffalo, all three of Temple's starting guards struggled to find their jump shots. Posting a combined 9 for 36 from the floor — their followup to 20 of 56 performance against the Bulls — all three found themselves on the bench for extended stretches in favor of sophomore Aaron Brown, junior T.J. DiLeo and freshman Will Cummings.

Thankfully, the bench would come up big for the Owls when it needed to, with Brown making three key baskets to keep Temple alive in the first half, Cummings twice regaining the lead for the Owls in the second, and DiLeo both throwing down a dunk and taking a charge to energize his team during the late stages of the game.

"I'll tell you, sometimes you're flying by the seat of your pants. You're hoping the matchups can be okay," Dunphy said of the extended minutes he received from his bench. "You want to give Will minutes. And you want to give T.J. minutes. And Aaron Brown — he's as hard of a worker as he have; so, he deserves minutes. You just hope you're picking the right guys and the right times, and somehow we figured it out tonight."

This is the second game in a row in which Temple has just barely managed to "figure it out" in time to avoid losses to opponents they were easily favored to beat. It is doubtful they will have the luxury of sorting out their troubles so late in the proceedings when they take on Duke next Wednesday night.

The announced attendance of 4,234 was the largest crowd at the Carpenter Center since Delaware hosted Hofstra in 2005...Friday night was Delaware's first home loss of the season...Temple freshman Anthony Lee finished tied a career-high 12 points and chipped in seven rebounds...Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson to Khalif Wyatt when the duo was asked about Temple's struggles on defense: "You're Mr. Talkative, right?"...Hollis-Jefferson would finish 13 points and 8 rebounds on 5-10 shooting.

Eagles-Vikings Week 7: What they're saying

Eagles-Vikings Week 7: What they're saying

Riding a two-game losing streak, the Eagles (3-2) return home Sunday for the first time in nearly a month and welcome a familiar face to the confines of Lincoln Financial Field. 

Sam Bradford and the Vikings (5-0) will come to Philadelphia fresh off a Week 6 bye and, most notably, as the league's lone unbeaten team. Minnesota boasts one of the league's top defenses, ranking first in points allowed (12.6 per game) and second in yards allowed (287.6 per game), and is looking to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 2009.

The last time these two franchises met was back in December 2013, when Matt Cassell and the Vikings put up 48 points in a win over Chip Kelly's Eagles.

To get a better handle on this year's Vikings, here's what they're saying about the Eagles' Week 7 opponent.

Brian Robison poses yet another challenge for Big V
Making his NFL debut in a start against the Redskins last week, Halapoulivaati Vaitai struggled mightily. Ryan Kerrigan beat Vaitai and got to Carson Wentz for 2½ sacks, all of which came in the first half.

It won't get any easier for the rookie right tackle this week either, as he'll likely be lined up against Brian Robison for most of the afternoon. Robison has four sacks and two forced fumbles on the season and, according to Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune, the versatile 10-year defensive end could be difference maker on the defensive side of the ball Sunday.

"Whether his hand is in the turf at left end or he’s standing over a guard or center as the defensive tackle, Robison could be dropping back to cover a tight end or running back," Krammer wrote. "At the line, he’s given responsibilities to call stunts or twists depending on their own play call. Sometimes he’s setting the pick to free another teammate. ... And on Sunday against the Eagles and their rookie right tackle, keep an eye on Robison when he lines up at his traditional spot of left end. All four of his sacks this season, including two strip-sacks, have come from there."

Makeshift offensive line remains a question mark
The Vikings may be undefeated, but by no means are they made up of perfect parts. As the midway point of the NFL season approaches, Minnesota's injury-battered offensive line is still a work in progress. 

Starting tackles Matt Kalil and Andre Smith are both sidelined with season-ending injuries. Starting guard Brandon Fusco suffered a concussion Week 5 against the Texans, but is expected to return against the Eagles. Center is the only position on the line the Vikings haven't had to replace because of an injury at some point this season.

But despite the constant changes up front, Minnesota has been stout overall in protecting the quarterback, allowing eight sacks and 27 quarterback hits across five games. According to Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press, the performance of that makeshift offensive line is going to be key in the Vikings' potential success down the road. 

"What’s best for Bradford and the Vikings’ standing as the NFC’s top dog is better pass protection," Murphy wrote. "He was sacked twice when Houston defenders turnstiled Clemmings and hit hard in the pocket other times. ... Offensive line intrigue never is a sexy storyline, but how well the Vikings manage the unit week to week figures to be an underlying factor to their continued success."

Strong away from home
The Vikings are a just a few years removed from going winless on the road, finishing 0-7-1 away from home in the 2013 season. Minnesota secured wins in only two of its first 10 away games under the tutelage of Mike Zimmer, but have since gone on a tear.

Minnesota has won seven of its last eight road games dating back to last season and, in their most recent game away from U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings took down the Panthers, 22-10, in Week 3. A testament of a true contender is having the ability to win consistently on the road, which holds true with the Vikings.

According to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, the Vikings' vast improvement over the past two-plus seasons has contributed to them becoming a stronger team away from home.

"Facing a tough opposing crowd once was a tall order for the Vikings, but it’s much less of one now. After being one of the worse road teams in the NFL earlier this decade, they’re now one of the best," Tomasson wrote. "Overall, the Vikings have improved, having gone from 7-9 in 2014 to 11-5 last season to 5-0 this year. That’s the main reason the road record has gotten so much better. Still, players say the continuity the team has had has especially helped when entering rugged road environments."

While Vegas has the Vikings as light favorites on the road, national experts have them heavily favored straight up to hand the Eagles their third straight loss.

ESPN: All nine experts picked the Vikings

CBS Sports: Seven of eight experts picked the Vikings

FOX Sports: Three of five experts picked the Vikings 

Flyers Skate Update: Ivan Provorov has a new partner

Flyers Skate Update: Ivan Provorov has a new partner

Ivan Provorov has a new partner.

Provorov will be paired with Brandon Manning on Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, a changeup from the first four games of the season. Mark Streit drops to the third pair with Nick Schultz, a tandem that worked together most of last season.

"We're going to change them up," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said after the team's morning skate. "We're going to look at a couple of different things. Some of the combinations are some familiar ones, such as Streiter-Schultz. They played a lot of minutes together last year. It's a move that we want to take a look at."

The Provorov-Manning pair is an interesting one. It should allow the 19-year-old to activate more in the offensive zone with Manning playing positionally sound. Manning has played with an extra edge thus far, showcasing a far more aggressive brand of hockey than he's shown previously with the orange and black.

With Streit, an offensive-minded blueliner, Provorov had to cover for his partner. Provorov also ran into some tough luck situations, too. Now with Manning, Provorov has the handcuffs off a little bit. Manning plays well positionally and while he has been more aggressive, he knows when to stay back, which will help Provorov.

It's another adjustment for the rookie. Through four games, he said, there haven't been any surprises in terms of his expectations for how the NHL game plays.

"I think what I expected is what I got," Provorov said. "It's the best league in the world, you expect all four lines to be great, you expect fast pace, physical game and that's what I got. I'm still learning, but I'm trying to do better as the games go on."

Provorov has one assist this season and enters Saturday as a minus-5, largely because of the Chicago game Tuesday. Hakstol praised Provorov's maturity level and ability to self-evaluate. What he hasn't done with Provorov is talk about numbers.

"There are some meaning in stats and we take the meaningful areas and apply those," Hakstol said. "But I haven't talked to any of the young guys about their statistics. We're four games in. I don't make too much of statistics right now. We're evaluating day-to-day play and looking at areas that we can use as strengths and areas individually we can improve."

Starting slow
If there has been one common theme through the first four games, it's the Flyers' poor starts. In first periods this season, they've been outscored, 6-1 (see game notes).

On Thursday night, the Flyers again came out of the gates slow. It was their first game back after a season-opening road trip out West, which Jakub Voracek said was a factor.

Voracek, who has four assists, said the burden falls on the individual player to focus on the small details and avoid committing mistakes.

"As a player, if you don't have that extra step, you just have to keep it simple," he said. "It's going to come around. The first 10 minutes, you have to make sure you don't make mistakes and I think that we were trying to do too much if we weren't feeling right. It showed last game against Anaheim. We were a half-a-step slower."

Four games isn't a large enough sample size for Hakstol to make a definite statement on the Flyers' first-period woes. The second-year coach said he'll have a better understanding where his team is at after the Carolina game.

"I think we'll answer that question after the start tonight," Hakstol said. "I think we'll get a fair evaluation of our starts after our start tonight, and if we have a problem, we'll know it after tonight. If we don't, we'll know that as well.

"Pretty clear, crystal clear, black and white in my mind. Tonight should tell else what type of team we are at the start of the hockey game."

Projected Flyers Lineup
F: Brayden Schenn-Claude Giroux-Wayne Simmonds

Travis Konecny-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek

Nick Cousins-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Matt Read

Chris VandeVelde-Boyd Gordon-Roman Lyubimov

D: Andrew MacDonald-Shayne Gostisbehere

Ivan Provorov-Brandon Manning

Nick Schultz-Mark Streit

G: Steve Mason