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…