Temple-St. Joseph's: 'Nuff Said

Temple-St. Joseph's: 'Nuff Said

The "most played rivalry" in Big 5 history is set to tip off for the 153rd time on Saturday afternoon when the St. Joseph's Hawks travel to North Philadelphia to take on the Temple Owls. Game time is scheduled for 4 p.m. from the inside the sold-out Apollo on Broad (The Comcast Network, 1210 AM).

This is the first meeting between the sides since the Temple student section held a mock funeral for the Hawk last season. Though the ceremony was pretty clever (and remarkably well-executed), it only seemed to spark a renewal in the St. Joseph's program, jump-starting the Hawks on a 17-11 run since that afternoon (Feb 20, 2011). Really, the steak was even more impressive (14-6) before the team lost five of its last eight.

And so, here we are to catch you up on both the Owls and Hawks heading into Saturday's A10 matchup. All the relevant news and notes (including C.J. Aiken in short-shorts!) after the jump…

How They Got Here
As mentioned above, St. Joseph's (13-8, 3-3) has lost five of its last eight and has struggled since forfeiting a five game win streak to Harvard on Dec. 31. That said, after dropping four of five, the Hawks came away with a huge 77-63 home win against the Dayton Flyers on Wednesday night. The Flyers were 14-5 to that point and 4-1 in conference, having beaten both Temple and La Salle within the month of the January.

Temple (14-5, 3-2), meanwhile, is on a three game win streak since taking an absolute pounding on the road at Richmond on Jan. 14. Since that time, the Owls won a close contest against La Salle, picked up their second victory against the ACC this season in their win over Maryland and claimed victory at Charlotte's Halton Arena for the first time in the program's history. The team has also welcomed senior Micheal Eric back into the lineup, after the 6-10 center missed a full eight weeks with an injury to his patella.

Hot 'n' Cold
Saint Joseph's junior guard Carl Jones was absent for the team's Jan. 14 loss to the Xaiver Musketeers and has struggled with his shot as of late. Jones, who shot exactly 50% from the floor for the first month of the season, has gone a less than stellar 11-41 over his last four games (27%). Still the team's leading scorer at 16.7 points per game, Jones could figure a difficult cover for the Owls, who struggle with small guards.

For Temple, junior guard Khalif Wyatt -- last year's A10 Sixth Man of the Year who was promoted to the starting lineup due to the absence of medical redshirt Scootie Randall -- has scored 20 or more points in five of his last seven games. He comes into Saturday's contest shooting 41% from behind the three point line and a career best 48% from the field. He trails only senior guard Ramone Moore (17.2 ppg) for the team lead in scoring at 16.3 points per game.

Battle of the Bigs
Though the talent of each team's respective backcourt (Jones and Galloway v. Wyatt, Fernandez and Moore) is well-documented, the matchups under the basket are not to be overlooked.

Temple has played small for the majority of the year, placing the 6-9 but paper-thin Anthony Lee as undersized center beside the 6-6 Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson as an undersized power forward.

The Hawks, on the other hand, feature three bigs who all see substantial minutes in C.J Aiken, Ronald Roberts and Halil Kanacevic. Aiken (who is second in the nation in blocked shots with 4.3 per game) and Roberts (who was apparently born to dunk a basketball) can both jump out of the building, presenting almost constant alley-oop possibilities for any guard with his head up. Add to that Kanacevic, who presents a very difficult cover as a 6-8 forward with skills both down low and on the perimeter, and Temple is going to have its hands full.

The key to the game could be the contributions of Eric, who has played only 24 of a possible 80 minutes since his return. On the floor for just seven minutes against Maryland, he was able to take on another 10 at Charlotte for 17 total on Wednesday night. Seeing another increase of 10 -- from 17 to 27 -- is probably wishful thinking, but solid contributions for anywhere from 20-25 minutes could really prove valuable for the Owls.

Without an inside presence, Temple may be forced to have its veteran backcourt and sharpshooting sophomore Aaron Brown launch jumpers from the perimeter. As a team, Temple is shooting 39.4% from three, good enough 23rd in the nation and second overall in the A10.

We're Going Streaking
Temple has won its last nine in a row over Saint Joseph's. The Hawks last win in the series came way back in 2008 when Pat Calathes hit a late three to upend Temple at the Liacouras Center. The Owls would go on to win that season's rematch at the Palestra shortly thereafter, before ultimately defeating the Hawks in the rubber match for the 2008 Atlantic 10 Championship.

Since that time, St. Joe's has struggled on and off the floor, losing both games and recruits over three forgettable seasons. The rivalry had become so temporarily lopsided that the Temple students went so far as to host this memorable funeral for the Hawk last season:

Unamused, Martelli was quick to remind reporters after the game just how cyclical these matters can be. Prior to the Owls ripping off nine in a row, the Hawks had actually taken 11 of the last 12, dating back to the 2002-03 season.

With SJU once more on the rise, Saturday should finally prove an even matchup.

Is This the Big 5 Game?
No, that will be played on Feb. 25 at the SJU Fieldhouse. Current Big 5 standings and remaining schedule listed below:

Temple               2-0
Saint Joseph's      1-1
Villanova            2-2
La Salle              1-1
Penn                   1-3

Sat. Feb. 4 -- La Salle vs. St Joseph's (The Palestra)
Wed. Feb. 22 -- Temple at La Salle (The Gola)
Sat. Feb. 25 -- Temple at St. Joseph's (The Fieldhouse)

So This Video Showed up Yesterday
Apparently the folks over at Yahoo! Sports have their own version of a hidden camera show called "BlindSided." While we don't know exactly when this prank took place, given the details mentioned in the film ("Saturday," "rivalry game," "retro night"), it's possible that it could have been this week, with the Temple game as the primary motivation/selling point. Honestly, C.J. Aiken wearing these for 40 minutes would just…

…moving on.

Coaches versus Cancer
Members of both coaching staffs will be donning "suits and sneakers" tomorrow in support of the American Cancer Society. Learn more here.

Relevant Numbers to Consider if You're into That Sort of Thing
The online oddsmakers at VegasInsider have Temple favored by 6.5 as of 9 a.m. Saturday morning. The over/under is listed at 141.5 total (down 1.5 from Friday night).

History
Series: Temple leads 87-65
At Temple: Temple leads 45-18
At Liacouras Center: Temple leads 8-6
Dunphy vs. Saint Joseph's: 15-16 (9-4 with Temple)
Martelli vs. Temple: 16-22
Streak: Temple has won last nine in a row
Lasting Meeting: Temple defeated St. Joe's 66-52 on Feb. 20, 2011 at the Liacouras Center. See recap here.

Most Recent Turning Point in the Series

And we'll see you postgame.

Big night in Columbus as rookies star for Union and Jim Curtin quotes Rasheed Wallace

Big night in Columbus as rookies star for Union and Jim Curtin quotes Rasheed Wallace

What’s the best way to respond to a controversial game-tying goal on the road?

If you said score the game-winner 62 seconds later, celebrate by shushing the crowd, and then quote Rasheed Wallace after the game, the Union agree with you. 

That’s what happened Wednesday night in Columbus as Crew SC were credited with scoring a second-half equalizer even though it looked like the ball may have been cleared off the line before it crossed (where’s goal-line technology when you really need it?). But before the cameras could even get back to the game, the Union charged down the field off the ensuing kickoff with Keegan Rosenberry scoring a very pretty goal to lift Philly to a 2-1 victory — and then put his finger to his mouth to quiet the crowd.

Watch the whole chaotic sequence here:

Remarkably, the goal was the second of the night for a Union rookie as Fabian Herbers scored the opener. Herbers got the start on the right wing in place of Ilsinho and another rookie, Joshua Yaro, started at center back instead of Ken Tribbett.

If you’re scoring at home, that’s three of the team’s top six picks from this year’s draft all starting together (for just the second time ever) and two of of them scoring.

That was certainly an exciting development for Curtin, who praised the rookie trio for growing up in a hurry before touting Rosenberry as an MLS Rookie of the Year frontrunner.

But none of those comments were as good as when Curtin quoted fellow Philadelphian Rasheed Wallace for the karmic retribution that happened after Crew SC’s controversial goal.

“It’s a true Philadelphia-type team — blue-collar, tough, doesn’t let adversity get in the way,” Curtin said. “And I guess in words of Rasheed Wallace, the ball doesn’t lie.

Then, after completing the season sweep of Crew SC, the Union coach added a little insult to injury.

“You guys won’t get that in Columbus but the ball does not lie.”

Hear that, Columbus? ’Sheed is ours.

MLB Notes: Miami Marlins acquire Jeff Francoeur from Atlanta Braves

MLB Notes: Miami Marlins acquire Jeff Francoeur from Atlanta Braves

MIAMI -- A person familiar with the deal says the Miami Marlins have acquired outfielder Jeff Francoeur from Atlanta in a three-team trade.

The person spoke to The Associated Press under condition of anonymity Wednesday night because the trade hadn't been announced.

The Texas Rangers also were part of the trade. Francoeur was the only major leaguer involved.

Miami is contending for an NL wild-card spot and isn't sure whether star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton will return this season from a severe groin strain.

Francoeur was hitting .249 with seven home runs and 33 RBIs in 99 games for the Braves. The 32-year-old plays left field and right field and is known for a strong arm.

Nationals acquire lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski from Athletics
WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals have acquired left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski from the Oakland Athletics for minor league infielder Max Schrock.

The A's also sent cash to Washington as part of the trade announced Thursday.

Rzepczynski gives the Nationals another lefty out of the bullpen since trading Felipe Rivero and putting Sammy Solis on the disabled list. He is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in 56 appearances this season for Oakland.

The 32-year-old joins the sixth team of his major league career. It was not clear if he'd be available for Washington's game Thursday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The 21-year-old Schrock was a 13th-round pick in 2015.

Red Sox place rookie Benintendi on 15-day DL with knee sprain
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.  -- The Boston Red Sox have placed rookie left fielder Andrew Benintendi on the 15-day disabled list with a left knee sprain.

Benintendi was hurt in the seventh inning of a 4-3 loss in 11 innings to Tampa Bay on Wednesday night. He tried to avoid a tag while running toward second base, but was tagged out on a double play.

Red Sox manager John Farrell says team doctors are evaluating the results of an MRI exam on Thursday. He says the severity of the injury isn't clear and will be "determined after the review."

Farrell is hopeful Benintendi, a first-round draft pick in 2015, will return before the season ends.

Chris Young will be the primary left fielder with Benintendi sidelined. Infielder Marco Hernandez was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket.

Future Phillies Report: Jorge Alfaro ticketed for a September call-up?

Future Phillies Report: Jorge Alfaro ticketed for a September call-up?

Minor-league schedules are wrapping up and both Reading and Lehigh Valley have just a dozen regular-season games remaining. From there, both teams will be in their league's playoffs, giving many of the Phillies' top prospects a chance to win a championship.

Even if the Fightin Phils and IronPigs fall short, 2016 has provided many of the Phillies' top young players with a taste of winning. In that respect, it's been a successful season. Even at the major-league level, guys like Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, Cesar Hernandez and the Phillies' young starting pitchers have seen what winning feels like. The Phils played very well for the first six weeks of the season, and even though they've faded from contention, they're not nearly as irrelevant as they were at this time a year ago.

This week, the Future Phillies Report begins at Double A:

C Jorge Alfaro (AA)
Alfaro, hitting .279/.322/.444 on the year with 13 homers and 60 RBIs, could be playing with the Phillies by mid-September. He's the only catcher on their 40-man roster other than Carlos Ruiz and Cameron Rupp. With the 40-man roster filled and teams routinely bringing up a third catcher when roster expand in September, it seems likely Alfaro could get his first taste of The Show.

Reading is the favorite to win the championship, which ends on Sept. 17 if it goes the full five games. The Phillies will almost certainly keep Alfaro with Reading through the end of its run; it would make little sense to keep him at Double A all year only to move him when the Fightin Phils are within striking distance of a title.

But those Alfaro skills you've been hearing and reading about for a year — power, arm strength, athleticism — could be on display at Citizens Bank Park for a few games in mid-to-late September. That opportunity would be as positional as anything else, because Alfaro is likely to begin 2017 at Triple A.

OF Dylan Cozens (AA)
It's not a huge surprise that Cozens has gone homerless in his last six games, all on the road. He has 37 homers and 114 RBIs on the year, with 28 HR and 77 RBIs coming at FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading.

Cozens is 1 for his last 20 with 10 strikeouts. Those K's just continue to pile up for him — he has 162, second-most in the Eastern League and 43 more than teammate Rhys Hoskins, who ranks fourth with 119.

Cozens has the tools. He has impressive raw power, he can run, he can field his position. But the tendency to swing and miss could hold him back from ascending the minor-league ladder as quickly as Phillies fans want. It certainly has this season. If Cozens had his same numbers — .284/.361/.608 with 36 doubles, 37 HR and 114 RBIs — but with 40 fewer strikeouts, he'd probably be in Triple A by now. But a 30-percent strikeout rate is impossible to overlook. For reference, only six players in the majors have a higher strikeout rate than Cozens: Steven Souza Jr., Chris Davis, Chris Carter, Mike Napoli, Trevor Story and Giancarlo Stanton.

And keep in mind this is Double A pitching Cozens is whiffing against. It's not like he's faced an assortment of experienced former major-leaguers with five-pitch mixes. 

Look for the Phillies to work this offseason and next spring training with Cozens to correct the issue. He has so much power potential that he could be a true difference-maker if he makes more contact and becomes less of a liability vs. lefties (.205 BA, four HR).

1B Rhys Hoskins (AA)
Reading's powerful first baseman has slowed down in August, going 54 plate appearances without an extra-base hit. But Hoskins continues to walk, so he has a .352 on-base percentage over that span despite hitting .190.

As I outlined in last week's Future Phillies Report, Hoskins' walk rate has increased in each of the last four months — he walked in seven percent of his plate appearances in May, nine percent in June, 13 percent in July and 21 percent in August.

That's a valuable skill for an all-offense slugger like Hoskins to develop. 

He's hitting .278/.369/.562 this season with 25 doubles, 35 homers, 107 RBIs, 61 walks and 119 K's.

OF Andrew Pullin (AA)
An underrated member of the Phillies' farm system, Pullin has had an impressive year. In 80 games, the left-handed hitting corner outfielder has hit .321 with 14 homers, 51 RBIs and an .885 OPS. 

In 44 games since his promotion to Reading, Pullin has hit .344 with with nine doubles, 10 homers and 32 RBIs. He's hit at home and on the road, against lefties and against righties. Pullin, who had a two-homer game on Sunday, has hit .348 with a .400 OBP in 100 plate appearances vs. left-handed pitchers this season.

A fifth-round pick in 2012 out of Centralia HS in Washington, Pullin is still just 22 years old after five seasons in the Phillies' farm system. He doesn't have the same prospect label as a Nick Williams or a Cozens, but he's produced.

Pullin, citing personal issues, actually retired in April before returning to Clearwater in May. The Phillies are glad to have his bat back. The organization has so much more young outfield talent now than it did a year or two ago, when that position group was as bleak as it got.

OF Nick Williams (AAA)
Williams' bat has picked back up this week. He had multi-hit games Tuesday and Wednesday, and four of his last eight hits were doubles.

But again, he's striking out a lot and not walking. Over his last 150 plate appearances, Williams has one walk and 40 strikeouts. He's hit .236 with a .240 OBP over that span. If you're hitting .236 with, say, a .320 on-base percentage, you can still provide your team value during a slump — especially if you're a middle-of-the-order hitter like Williams. 

But Williams doesn't do that. When he's cold, there's no production at the plate. That's an issue and it's not one you just correct at the major-league level, where pitchers have more control and command than anywhere else in the world.

Williams has power. He has bat speed and foot speed. But if his plate selection doesn't improve in a tangible way, his ceiling will be limited. There are plenty of guys in the majors with power and speed and a sub-.300 on-base percentage. They're mostly role players, not stars.

SS J.P. Crawford (AA)
Crawford has three errors in his last five games to give him 19 on the season. For most of the year, he was well ahead of last year's pace, when he committed 27 errors. Now, he's in line to finish with 22 or 23, which wouldn't represent meaningful progress.

Of course, defensive ability is not perfectly illustrated by an error total. Errors don't take into account all the balls an infielder reaches that others don't. Things like range and arm strength don't show up in that one counting stat.

Crawford has range and impressive arm strength. He has the tools that will enable him to stick at shortstop and potentially be an above-average defender there one day. But talent alone doesn't make you a good defensive shortstop. Look at Freddy Galvis as an example — for years, the Phillies touted Galvis' glove as he showed flashes of brilliance but also made a lot of mental mistakes or miscues on routine plays. There was a difference in the defense of Jimmy Rollins and Galvis — Rollins had the flashiness while also making just about every routine play every season. It took Galvis a few years, but finally in 2016 he's lived up to his defensive potential. It could take Crawford a similar amount of time.

Offensively, Crawford continues to walk — he has 69 walks and 69 strikeouts this season. He's hit .253 with a .342 OBP in 334 plate appearances at Triple A.

RHP Nick Pivetta (AAA)
Pivetta lasted just four innings on Thursday night, giving up two runs in a loss to the Pawtucket Red Sox. He hit 95 mph and struck out six more batters, though, giving him 20 K's in 15 innings since his promotion to Triple A.

The Phillies appear to be monitoring his innings count. Pivetta is at 139, seven above his career-high with probably three more starts to go. He'll finish somewhere between 155 and 160 innings in his age-23 season. 

The rising strikeout rate and decreasing walk rate with Pivetta are true signs of progress. He's struck out 8.5 batters per nine this season and walked 3.0. Prior to this season, his K/9 was 6.9 and his BB/9 was 3.3.

RHP Jimmy Cordero (AA)
Cordero, the hard-throwing reliever the Phillies acquired from Toronto last summer for Ben Revere, has pitched well lately at Double A. After giving up three runs in his first two appearances with Reading, he's allowed just one run over his last 7⅓ innings.

Cordero's presence on the Phils' 40-man roster and his potential as a setup man or closer could get him a look in the majors in September. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin wants more relief options, and Cordero has the stuff to spell Edubray Ramos or Hector Neris. Ramos has made 24 appearances since July 1, and Neris has pitched in a MLB-leading 64 games.

CF Roman Quinn (AA)
Quinn has homered in two of his last three games, both from the left side. That's good news for the switch-hitter because he is naturally right-handed.

All five of Quinn's homers this season have come from the left side. But he's actually hit 35 points better (.319) from the right side. It's important for a switch-hitter to hold his own against both sides. We saw for years with Shane Victorino, for example, that when a hitter is so much weaker from one side (Victorino was from the left) it almost nullifies that switch-hitting ability.

Quinn, who has deceptive power, has hit .320 over the last week with a double, a triple and those two homers. He's hit .278 with a .355 OBP with Reading this season and has 29 steals in 37 attempts.