Temple's resume takes serious hit in loss to Duquesne


Temple's resume takes serious hit in loss to Duquesne


As a general rule, it's not often you see the home team whistled for borderline contact in a one-point game with 2.9 seconds to play.

But that's really no excuse. Temple should have never found itself in that position -- save for the fact that it always does. For the first time in their program's history, the Owls have had each of their last four games decided by just one point. And this is the one loss that's going to really hurt.

Despite a career-high 35 points from senior Khalif Wyatt, Temple, a 17-point favorite, lost to Duquesne, 84-83, at the Liacouras Center on Thursday night (see Instant Replay).

Duquesne, which had not won a game in conference this year (0-9).

Duquesne, which had lost its last 11 games in a row.

Duquesne, which had an RPI of 217 entering Thursday night.

With all that in mind, Wyatt was asked if this was the toughest loss of his four-year Temple career.

"All of them are tough," he said, looking straight down, head hung. "All of them are tough."

This one is going to prove a little tougher when it comes to Temple's NCAA tournament hopes, however. The Owls have made the dance the last five years but now find themselves 16-8 overall and 5-5 in the Atlantic 10. They won't know how sharply their RPI of 42 will fall until Friday, but they do know they sit behind eight other teams in a conference that might  receive half that number of bids. Never mind that they still have to play UMass, La Salle and VCU.

"We're a good team," coach Fran Dunphy said, "but we're not nearly good enough at this point.

"When I was asked [earlier this year] what kind of team we had, I said, 'I think we can be good, but I don't know that we can be great,' and it's proving to be a little bit prophetic. Although, at this point, we're too inconsistent to even be called good."

Dunphy's said something to that effect multiple times this year. He's made that comment about as often as he's said that his team needs to improve defensively. Temple allowed Duquesne to shoot 49 percent from the floor and make 10 of 23 looks from three Thursday night. The Dukes shot an even more impressive 67 percent on 17 of 27 attempts in the first half to take a six-point lead, 43-37, into the break.

"They shot it so well in the first half," Dunphy said. "Our defense improved in the second half, but not good enough."

Temple stormed out of the locker room on a 17-3 run to go ahead eight but immediately ceded its advantage when it allowed the Dukes to score the next nine. From there, Duquesne rebuilt its lead to find itself up 79-71 with 1:25 to play. Wyatt and junior transfer Dalton Pepper cut that margin to just two with four foul shots and a Pepper three from the left wing with 33 seconds remaining.

After the Dukes' Jeremiah Jones missed two free throws with less than 20 ticks to play, Wyatt went down the other end, made a layup, converted his ensuing foul shot and actually put Temple ahead 83-82 with just 7.2 seconds remaining. The Owls looked like they were going to escape with their third straight one-point victory.

That was until Pepper, who finished with a season-high 13 points and was instrumental in keeping Temple in the game, was whistled for a questionable foul on guard Derrick Colter with 2.9 seconds remaining.

"I have no idea. I haven't seen the tape and I was too far away to get a sense of it," Dunphy said. "There's not much we can do about it at this point. They're three really good officials. So if they blew a foul on that, that's what it was."

Wyatt wasn't as diplomatic.

"I thought Dalton was playing pretty good defense," Wyatt said. "I don't think a call should be made at that point in the game, but that's what the refs saw. They made a good call -- I guess."

The game was in Pepper's hands one last time when he caught a full-court heave from T.J. DiLeo and a launched a clean, albeit high-arcing look at a three as time expired. The ball landed softly on the rim, ricocheted off the backboard and ultimately fell to the floor.

Temple has found a way to win so many tight games this year, including a magic show against Dayton last Saturday that featured two phantom calls and five missed foul shots in the final minute. On Thursday, the Owls' penchant for playing unnecessarily close games against lesser opponents finally caught up to them.

"It would have been a great win in so many ways, but we didn't play well enough to feel great about ourselves at this point," Dunphy said.

Two earlier home losses to Canisius and St. Bonaventure this season haven't looked particularly good on the Owls' resume, but those two teams boast RPI figures of 105 and 122 -- not 217. Temple still has enough games and wins available against quality opponents to salvage its at-large credentials, but it's left itself so little margin for error. Dunphy was asked if his team was starting to feel the pressure of missing the tournament for the first time in six years.

"I hope so," he answered. "I hope so. It's a good thing when your back is against the wall, and you respond.

"We'll find out [how we bounce back]. We'll find out on Saturday (at UMass). We have a tough game. We have really seven tough games coming up, six of them in the league and Detroit is really a good team, too. So we have presented ourselves with a very, very difficult challenge as we move forward in the last seven games."

Mike McQueary's defamation suit against Penn State headed to jury

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Mike McQueary's defamation suit against Penn State headed to jury

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Lawyers for a former Penn State assistant football coach urged a judge and jurors Thursday to find the university liable for how it treated him after it became public that his testimony helped prosecutors charge Jerry Sandusky with child molestation.

McQueary is seeking more than $4 million in lost wages and other damages, saying he was defamed by a statement the school president released the day Sandusky was charged, retaliated against for helping with the Sandusky investigation and misled by school administrators.

Sandusky, a former defensive coach at Penn State, was convicted in 2012 of sexual abuse of 10 boys and is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence. He maintains his innocence.

In closing arguments Thursday, Penn State attorney Nancy Conrad emphasized that McQueary had said he was damaged by public criticism that he did not to go to police or child-welfare authorities when he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a team shower in 2001. Instead he reported it the next day to then-head coach Joe Paterno.

"Mr. McQueary was not damaged by any action of the university," Conrad argued. "Mr. McQueary, as he testified and as he recognized, if he was harmed, was harmed by national media and public opinion."

McQueary testified he has not been able to find work, either in coaching or elsewhere, but Conrad blamed that on an inadequate network of contacts and the lack of a national reputation.

Judge Thomas Gavin will decide the whistleblower count, a claim that McQueary was treated unfairly as the school suspended him from coaching duties, placed him on paid administrative leave, barred him from team facilities and then did not renew his contract shortly after he testified at Sandusky's 2012 trial.

McQueary was not allowed to coach in the school's first game after Paterno was fired, a home loss to Nebraska.

"That sends a very clear signal to those in your network that the university doesn't want you to be supported," Strokoff said. "`Stay away, you're a nonperson.'"

Penn State has argued it put McQueary on leave out of safety concerns, as threats were fielded by the university.

Strokoff said there was no evidence of multiple death threats against his client, and called McQueary's treatment outrageous.

"He should not have been the scapegoat," Strokoff said.

Jurors will decide the defamation claim and a misrepresentation allegation that two administrators lied to him when they said they took his report of Sandusky seriously and would respond appropriately.

Conrad insisted they did take steps to inform McQueary about the actions they were taking, which included meeting with Sandusky and an official from the children's welfare charity he founded, and telling Sandusky to stop bringing children into team facilities.

"No one told Mr. McQueary, `You cannot go to the police,'" Conrad said.

The defamation claim involves a statement issued by Penn State then-president Graham Spanier expressing support for the two administrators, then-athletic director Tim Curley and then-vice president Gary Schultz, when they were charged with perjury in November 2011 for allegedly lying about what McQueary told them in the weeks after the 2001 incident.

The perjury charges against them were dismissed earlier this year by a state appeals court, but Curley, Schultz and Spanier still await trial in Harrisburg on charges of failure to properly report suspected child abuse and endangering the welfare of children.

McQueary lawyer Elliot Strokoff said Spanier's statement could have led people to conclude McQueary was a liar.

"If the charges are groundless, then the grad assistant lied," Strokoff said. "And that's defamation."

Conrad said Spanier's statement indicated the charges against his two top lieutenants would be proven groundless.

No. 24 Penn State looking to turn around road skid against Purdue

No. 24 Penn State looking to turn around road skid against Purdue

STATE COLLEGE, Pa.  -- National rankings and bowl games didn't matter a whole lot to Brandon Bell when the linebacker committed to Penn State, a program then under unprecedented NCAA sanctions.

Four years later, the usually stoic linebacker found himself considering his team's sudden ascension Tuesday after its biggest win in front of more than 107,000 fans and a national audience.

"It's great, definitely," Bell said. "It's definitely not over though."

With five games left, No. 24 Penn State (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) can make a run at a conference championship but faces plenty of hurdles.

Before considering they'd need No. 2 Michigan and No. 6 Ohio State to lose some games, the Nittany Lions first need to find their game away from the friendly raucous of Beaver Stadium. They've lost seven straight true road games and eight of 10 since 2014 but can turn that around against Purdue (3-4, 1-3) with a win at Ross-Ade Stadium.

A player who enjoys being smack-talked and says he thrives on hostile energy, Bell has always liked the challenge of playing on the road. Bell's played in all but two of those road games and said the trick is to maintain your energy level throughout the game, something that's easier to do with an atmosphere like the one Penn State last played in.

With Ross-Ade Stadium less than half the size of their facility, Penn State coach James Franklin said players will have to "bring their own juice."

Penn State players know they'll need it. Some had already taken notice of Purdue before taking the field following a massive pyrotechnics display on Saturday night. As he waited to head over to the stadium, tight end Mike Gesicki watched parts of Purdue's 27-14 loss to No. 8 Nebraska.

"I think that people are kind of disrespecting Purdue," Gesicki said. "They gave Nebraska a very tough time in the first half and Nebraska is obviously one of the toughest teams in the country."

And one that plays an offensive style Penn State hasn't faced yet.

Purdue quarterback David Blough has passed for more than 767 yards with seven touchdowns in his last two games. He completed nearly 60 percent of his throws against Nebraska working Purdue's short and intermediate passing game in its first game since Darrell Hazell was fired.

"These type of teams, they kind of pass it to open up the run," Bell said. "At the same time, definitely got to be more read-oriented on the wide receivers and tight ends. The team's going to try to make you look this way and then throw it back this way. Definitely got to be able to keep your head on a swivel."

Interim coach Gerad Parker will coach his second game after changing up the Boilermakers' approach in the wake of Hazell's Oct. 16 dismissal.

"Change has happened, so we changed a lot of things in our routine," Parker said. "You need to demand out of yourself that you believe and think a different way, that the mind's a powerful thing and then take off and move faster out on that practice field so you'll move faster during the game."

Despite its road woes, Penn State's practice plan won't change, although Franklin altered his schedule due to a funeral on Tuesday. He did opt for one adjustment earlier in the week, however. On Sunday, Franklin sat in on the offensive and defensive meetings to make sure the postgame excitement from the Ohio State win had died down.

"We don't need to change our approach on the back end, and you know, it's business as usual for us," Franklin said. "It was a great game. It was a great environment and it was great to see our players go out and play well and it was great to see the fans enjoy it so much, and our alumni and Lettermen and all those things. But again, it's on to the next game."