Zack Rosen Goes All Zack Rosen, But Temple Survives Penn 73-67 in Overtime

Zack Rosen Goes All Zack Rosen, But Temple Survives Penn 73-67 in Overtime

Zack Rosen made a strong case for why he may just be the best guard in the city. Unfortunately for the rest of his Quaker teammates, his game-high 27-points would not be enough.

The Temple University Owls barely survived the Penn Quakers on Monday night, needing overtime to ultimately escape the Palestra with a 73-67 victory.

Temple coach Fran Dunphy said after the game that this was "probably" the third year in a row in which the Quakers outplayed his Owls. But for Rosen, merely taking Temple to the wire just wasn't good enough.

The senior guard expressed sincere regret after the loss, knowing that this would mark the final time he would have an opportunity to beat Temple. It was the fourth defeat of his college career suffered at the hands of the Owls, a fact he knew all too well. Concluding that there is no such thing as a "moral victory," Rosen was plainly disheartened, even in spite of his remarkable performance.

Given the Owls' roster circumstances—with both Scootie Randall and Khalif Wyatt out of the lineup—this may have been best opportunity for Penn to finally upend Temple during Zack's tenure. Not having their best defender and first option off the bench made the Owls look relatively, if not less than, ordinary against Penn.

Thankfully, senior leaders Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore were there to answer the call. Though both struggled for large stretches of the ballgame, they would lead the team in scoring with 19 and 15, respectively. Both hit key 3-pointers in the extra session that would keep Temple ahead by the thinnest of margins.

Indeed, the Owls were up just two—leading 69-67—when Fernandez attempted to inbound the ball to Moore, Temple's best free throw shooter. Shockingly, Miles Cartwright would be called for an intentional foul on Owl guard T.J. DiLeo. Apoplectic, Quaker head coach Jerome Allen threw one hell of a fit, earning a prompt technical.

That's right—you processed that sentence correctly—with 6.4 seconds to play in a two-point game in overtime, the home team was whistled for an intentional foul and a technical in the same stoppage. It was as absolutely baffling to watch in person as it is to now read in print. Though Temple would miss the "front end" of their four foul shots, Fernandez would ice the attempts earned with thanks to Allen's technical, finally putting the game out of reach.

And while Moore and Fernandez' names top the stat sheet for Temple, it was the performances of T.J. DiLeo and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson that made the greatest impact for the Owls.

Starting with the DiLeo, the redshirt junior set career-highs both in points—10—and minutes played—38. It was T.J. who was given the unenviable task of trying to contain Rosen for the bulk of the evening. Though no Owl was successful on that front, T.J. was responsible for a game-changing block (as pictured above) in the late stages of regulation to prevent yet another Rosen three-pointer from heading toward the Temple basket.

As for Hollis-Jefferson, though he struggled to find his place in the offense during the early going, the 6-6 power forward was Temple's best player at both ends of the floor in the second half. Not only did he work to shut down the perimeter and interior on defense, but he threw down what may already be the most thunderous dunk Temple fans will see all season. He finished with 10 points on 5-6 shooting from the floor, and appears to have added mid-range jumper to his offensive repertoire. The Owls will need Rahlir to take that "next step" in his progression if they're to reach their potential this season. He certainly lived up to his end of the bargain Monday night.

The Quakers will look to rebound from their first loss of their season when they take on Rider this coming Thursday in the first round of the Philly Hoop Group Classic. As for the Owls, they'll be on their way to San Juan to take part in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament. They, too, will be back in action Thursday when they take on Western Michigan.

Your next Big 5 matchup comes Tuesday night when the Villanova Wildcats meet the La Salle Explorers.

Extraneous Notes I Couldn't Fit in to the Narrative:
I was happy to see the Penn kids roll out some banners to taunt the Temple fans in attendance. I tried to copy them down, but may have missed one or two as my view of their student section was partially obstructed. Here's what I was able to see:

(1) Congrats on the Big East!

(2) Temple (n): Where you go to pray that (maybe) we will employ you some day (safety school).

(3) Dunphy we mustache you a question, but we'll shave it for later #noshavenovember

(4) Cathedral of Basketball / Temple of Losers

Roll outs…Soooo Colleeggge…

'Night guys.

Penn State's Saquon Barkley staying patient with sluggish run game

uspresswire-psu-saquon-barkley.jpg
USA Today Images

Penn State's Saquon Barkley staying patient with sluggish run game

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Saquon Barkley believes he can score a touchdown every time he takes a handoff.

Don't mistake the Penn State running back's confidence for arrogance. He's put plenty of evidence on tape in just 15 games to earn a growing reputation as one of the country's most dangerous backs in space.

But with each game this season, Barkley's discovering that space isn't always there in Penn State's new zone-read rushing attack that ranks near the bottom of every major statistical category. Barkley's sure if he remains persistent, more of those highlight-reel runs will come, however.

"We've got to be patient," Barkley said Wednesday. "Stuff will open up and I've got to step up as a player and make more guys miss and break more tackles and we've really got to start getting our run game going because if we get the run game going, that can open up the passing game even more."

Barkley leads the Big Ten with six rushing touchdowns but Penn State ranks last in the conference and 122nd in the nation with just over 101 rushing yards per game. Those sagging rushing numbers can be traced to the big-play back being bottled up before he even gets going.

Usually Barkley's first step is backward in Joe Moorhead's zone-read rushing attack. A delayed handoff follows and Barkley or quarterback Trace McSorley have at times been swallowed up quickly as defenders converge on the mesh point. Although his 55-yard score against Temple came on an inside zone run, Barkley's average on such plays over the last three games falls to just 1.4 yards without it.

It's a cause for concern for Penn State's offensive staff, which is committed to finding more ways to get Barkley the ball as the team prepares to face Minnesota (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten) on Saturday.

Shovel passes and pitches have made brief appearances. Barkley's also caught 10 passes thus far and direct snaps may show up in the future.

Eliminating inside zone reads isn't an option, though.

"There's a lot of different ways," Penn State coach James Franklin said.

Penn State has had success on the outside. Even with a delayed start, Barkley's done most of his damage over the last three games when he's been able to flank defenders. He's averaging 10.8 yards per carry on those plays, further evidence of his skill on the edge.

"He's a game-changing player," center Brian Gaia said.

But one that's not comfortable lobbying his coaches for more touches or criticizing a young offensive line that will likely start two freshmen guards this weekend. Like Franklin, Barkley believes a little more early physicality coupled with his own patience will open things up in the middle.

"I would say the thing that we really need to improve the most is just coming out stronger, coming out faster and starting fast," Barkley said. "Physically, I think we're there. Mentally, we've really got a good grasp of the system but, especially in away games, we've been starting out really slow."

Temple readying for conference play, SMU's uptempo attack

Temple readying for conference play, SMU's uptempo attack

Take a look at the standings and you’ll see the Temple Owls are 2-2 so far this season with wins over Stony Brook and Charlotte and losses to Army and Penn State.

But take a peek to the right of that 2-2 mark and you’ll see a 0-0 record in AAC conference play.

While the Owls would most certainly like to have a better record than the 2-2 record they sport at this very moment, the silver lining is that none of those games were conference games. Therefore, those games don’t affect Temple’s overall goal of defending its AAC Eastern Division crown.

But, on Saturday afternoon, that title defense finally begins when Temple welcomes SMU and its uptempo offensive attack to Lincoln Financial Field in the first of eight straight AAC games that will close out the regular season.

“It sort of feels like a new start to the season,” Temple senior quarterback Phillip Walker said following Tuesday’s practice on campus at Edberg-Olsen Hall. “It’s just another great opportunity for us not to look back on anything or think about anything that happened in the past in the first four games. Now it’s an opportunity to play our next eight games and enjoy playing the conference again.”

The good news for Temple heading into conference play is that the offense has found its stride. The Owls overwhelmed Charlotte last week, 48-20, behind 268 yards and two touchdowns throws from the arm of Walker and two touchdowns runs a piece from senior Jahad Thomas and Sophomore Ryquell Armstead. After early struggles, Walker is now up to 846 yards and five touchdowns on the year.

That’s after the tough loss at Penn State two weeks ago when the offense settled itself for the first time this season and found continuity. Thomas’ return to the backfield has helped, as he’s scored four touchdowns in two games since missing the first two games of the year with a dislocated left thumb.

The Temple defense is still hurting itself with a lackluster pass rush. The Owls have only five sacks through the first four games. Last season, they had 10 sacks in the first game alone. Big plays allowed are an issue, too, as Temple has allowed 10 plays of 20 yards or more from scrimmage through four games.

But the confidence is there and the Owls believe they are getting better each week.

“I think we’re better than where we were [earlier in the year,]” said redshirt senior defensive lineman Haason Reddick, who has five tackles for loss on the year. “A lot of guys are stepping up, locking in on the small details that were hurting us the first couple of weeks. We’ve got the younger guys playing better and harder, so I think we’ve come a long way. I still think there are some things we need to get better on, but we’re close.

“Those first four games, none of those teams were conference teams. It was like preseason to work out the kinks. Now it’s time to go. It’s full-throttle now. There’s no time to make mistakes. There’s no time to beat ourselves.”

Temple head coach Matt Rhule, on the other hand, doesn’t like to talk much about the “fresh start” or “restart” that comes with the beginning of AAC play this weekend.

He preaches the importance of conference play every week, and he has proof.

“Every week, I put up the conference rankings, no matter what,” he said Tuesday “Week 1 when we lost, I put up the conference rankings. Week 2 when we won, I put up the conference rankings. Week 3, Week 4, I do that every week because I want guys to understand the importance of conference wins, conference losses and conference play.

“I will say, to be fair, I did say we were going to try and get our kids to be ready for Week 4 or 5 or 6, because we knew we were going to have to play a lot of young guys and knew we were going to have to teach them.”

All the Owls, young and old, know they need to be prepared on Saturday.

The Mustangs have already equaled their win total from last season and have the same record, overall and conference, as the Owls heading into Saturday. They hung tough with Big 12 powerhouses Baylor (6-6 at half) and TCU (6-3 TCU at half) before eventually succumbing in the second half of both games.

Defensively, SMU is tied for tops in the nation with 10 interceptions. But plenty of focus goes on the Mustangs’ uptempo offense, which break off chunks of yardage in the blink of an eye with 448 yards per game so far this year. Rhule and the Owls know that fact better than anyone. The last two times these schools have met, SMU earned a 59-49 win in 2013 and Temple came away with a 60-40 victory last season. That’s 208 points combined in the last two meetings.

SMU’s fast-paced attack is exactly the type of offensive system Rhule’s Owls have historically struggled with, too.

“They have, obviously, a lot of offense,” Rhule said of Saturday’s foe. “(SMU head coach) Coach (Chad) Morris was one of the best offensive coordinators in the country. He did it at Clemson and he’s doing it there. There’s a lot to deal with. That’s the history of this series, though.”

Quarterback Matt Davis, who hurt Temple with both his arm and his feet last season, is out for the year with a knee injury suffered in Week 1. Ben Hicks has stepped in and thrown seven interceptions compared to just two touchdowns. But big-play receiver Cortland Sutton is still there and he already has four touchdown grabs on the year.

In practice this week, speed has been the theme of the Owls' defense, which is 28th in the nation with 327.3 yards allowed per game this year.

“It’s difficult to prepare for,” Reddick said of SMU’s offense. “You’ve got to just work on it in practice, going fast and getting the defensive calls faster. You have to look and read to the offense faster to see what you have to do faster. So you have to kick it up.”