Temple senior forwards Scootie Randall and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson have been playing basketball together since their AAU days.
As long as Temple keeps winning, they'll keep putting on the same uniform.
So it's fitting that come Friday at 1:40 p.m., Randall and Hollis-Jefferson could prove the key to beating 8-seed N.C. State in the Owls' first game of the NCAA Tournament.
The two 6-foot-6 forwards have produced in spurts offensively this season, but there are two things they've both done even when their shots weren't falling -- rebound and play defense.
"You've got to find ways to help," Randall said at Tuesday's practice. "If you're not playing defense that well or something else, you've got to rebound, help out, communicate. You've just got to do something to help your team."
"[Rebounding] is something that me and Rahlir have been doing since AAU and high school. We've got the feeling of seeing shots go up and knowing where it's going to come off [the rim].
"I think we've got a good sense of what we need to do."
Randall and Hollis-Jefferson have to find a way to shut down N.C. State forwards C.J. Leslie (6-9) and Richard Howell (6-8). Those two combine for 27.6 points and 18.1 rebounds per game and shoot a combined 53.8 percent from the field. Leslie leads the team in scoring with 14.7 points per game and Howell led the ACC this season with 10.7 rebounds per game.
On offense, Leslie and Howell use their length not only to score but to create second-chance opportunities for themselves and their teammates. At the opposite end, their rebounds on the defensive glass kick start the N.C. State fast break.
It all adds up to the Wolfpack scoring the fifth most points in country (77.5) on the fifth-best shooting percentage (49.4) and the 12th-best three-point percentage (39.3 percent).
"We don't want to lose the battle on the glass like we did in our previous game," Hollis-Jefferson said, calling back to when Temple was out-rebounded, 40-23, by UMass in the A-10 quarterfinals last Friday.
"That's really important. We want to keep them off the glass and make sure they don't get second-chance opportunities."
Randall and Hollis-Jefferson's contributions could prove even more vital given the uncertain health and availability of Temple's leading rebounder, sophomore center Anthony Lee (7.0 rpg). Lee said Sunday night that he is cleared to play on Friday after a weekend trip to the hospital during which he was tested for a concussion.
On Tuesday, coach Fran Dunphy said Lee's status was up to the sophomore and the trainers and that they would continue to monitor and evaluate his progress throughout the week.
If Lee can't go, can't play as many minutes as he would like, or just proves ineffective, it will be 6-9 power forward Jake O'Brien filling in as Temple's tallest player on the floor. That said, O'Brien plays a face-up game and is the Owls' best three-point shooter, meaning the rebounding responsibilities will once again fall to Randall, Hollis-Jefferson and whoever else can crash the glass.
"[N.C. State] is really athletic. They've got some size. But we've played against big guys before and we've played against athletic guys before," Temple's leading scorer and Atlantic 10 player of the year Khalif Wyatt said. "Rahlir's up to the challenge, and Anthony Lee will be up to the challenge, and we got Jake down there, and Scootie banging down there.
"Coach Dunphy always says height doesn't really matter. It's about who wants it more. So I just hope we want it more on Friday."