Temple-Miami (OH): German Pop Cover Band Edition

Temple-Miami (OH): German Pop Cover Band Edition

Those of you who troubled yourselves to watch the WWL's mid-week MAC coverage over the past week and a half will attest to having seen some of the most exciting college football played all season. For as much criticism as the MAC tends to catch—some of which is fair, some of which is unfair—it's entertainment level can be and is no doubt equal to any BCS conference.

You either like watching football, or you like pretending to be "discerning." If you fall into the former camp—if you actually like football—welcome to the Mid-American Conference.

Temple hosts Miami (OH) in a battle of two teams who will both take the field with their seasons on the line. Kick-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. (ESPN / 1210 AM)

How We Got Here:
After an 0-4 start to their season—thanks, in part, to a difficult non-conference schedule featuring (preseason #21) Missouri, Minnesota and Cincinnati—the Miami (OH) Redhawks have won four of their last five and seem to be on the uptick. Temple, meanwhile, is the loser of its last two in a row, losses which may have very well cost the Owls a shot at the MAC Title and even a bowl game.

This evening is a must-win for both teams. By no scenario can Temple win the MAC East at 4-4, while Miami would need a victory over and some serious help from the Ohio Bobcats should they come up short tonight.

Recapping from last week, the Owls best-case MAC scenario features a 5-3 in-conference record and a complete collapse from Ohio. Bowling Green has already done their part by losing to Northern Illinois last evening.

Click here for a full breakdown of Temple's fleeting MAC Title chances. Go Buffalo.

At Quarterback
Temple head coach Steve Addazio confirmed last Friday that Chris Coyer will start under center for the Owls.

Coyer, who was responsible for 307 yards of Temple offense against Ohio—184 yards rushing, 123 receiving—will be making the first start of his college career.

Given the high-rate of success in his first taste of big game action last week, it's clear Coyer isn't the kind of player to become overwhelmed by the situation. His coach has described him as "unflappable," and as an a very even-keeled quarterback, an attitude, Addazio says, that should not be confused with a lack of intensity.

"He's a competitor," says Addazio. "He's a gamer."

After building such high expectations in less than four full quarters of work against Ohio, Coyer needs to find a way to repeat that success. Aside from his cool, calm demeanor, he's also been described by his coach as somewhat of an erratic passer in practice. The question now is whether that will be indicative his performance of the field—throw to throw, series to series, game to game.

Coyer quickly earned himself a great number of supporters with his performance at Ohio. Tonight may go a long way in finding out if those supporters jumped the gun or if the sophomore really is the guy with the immediate ability to lead the Temple offense. The bad news for the sophomore quarterback is that unlike against Ohio, Miami (OH) has had the opportunity to game plan for him and should be able to key on him, especially given the Owls situation at running back.

Bernard Pierce's Concussion
What was an undisclosed "head injury" to star running back Bernard Pierce has now been confirmed as a concussion. Coach Steve Addazio and the rest of the Temple staff make a specific point not to discuss injuries with the media. As such, his status remains unknown at this time and probably will remain so right up to game time.

There's nothing wrong with optimism, but given the way concussions are now being treated, and the fact that there's been very little news regarding his status, it might be imprudent to get your hopes up.

Should Pierce not be able to go, the bulk of the running game will fall on the shoulders of Matt Brown, back-up running back Kenny Harper and, of course, Coyer. With Brown himself battling some nagging injuries and Harper having seen very little time this season, tonight might be really become the "Chris Coyer Show."

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Update: The Inquirer's Keith Pompey is reporting that Matt Brown is currently listed number one on the depth chart, with freshman runner Jaylen Fitzpatrick as his back-up, after he "outperformed Kenny Harper this week at practice."

Fitzpatrick was actually a dual-threat quarterback during his senior of high school, and was converted to wide receiver upon joining the Owls. After nine games with the Owls, Fitzpatrick has a combined total of zero touches on the football. Addazio must have really liked what he saw in practice.

Obviously, this neither guarantees him reps nor precludes Harper from carrying the ball, it's just another testament to Steve Addazio not wanting anyone to get to comfortable in their spot when he has, in his estimation, "a lot of talent" up and down the roster.

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Is Miami for Real?
Good question. Wish I could answer it. Yes, they are winners of four of their last five, but those wins come against teams with a combined record of 9-27.

They've won the games they should have and lost the games in which they've been challenged. Tonight is as big for them as it is for Temple. Whether they're "for real" or not, expect them to be as hungry, if not even hungrier than the Owls.

Mandatory Pop Culture Education
I've done what I could to include as many musical guests as possible over the course of the season. Admittedly, I haven't always kept up with the theme, but I've tried to work them in when possible.

In consideration of the fact that I've had to repeatedly type "(OH)" after "Miami," I've begun to think of the city as somewhat like a cover band for the real Miami.

Accordingly, I present to you "The Baseballs"—a German pop cover band, who takes a whole mess of songs you wouldn't ordinarily associate with one another and tries to make it all sound like the Beach Boys.

And now, Will Smith! ...sort of:

See you post-game.

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

TORONTO -- DeMar DeRozan scored a career-high 43 points and the Toronto Raptors rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 107-97 on Friday night.

DeRozan shot 15 of 28 from the floor as he surpassed his 42-point effort against the Houston Rockets on March 30, 2015, helping the Raptors overcome the absence of fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry. Lowry sat out with a right wrist injury.

Serge Ibaka, acquired by trade from the Orlando Magic last week, scored 15 points in his debut, while fellow newcomer P.J. Tucker, picked up from the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, had a game-high 10 rebounds and nine points in his first game for his new team.

Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points for Boston, which also got 19 points each from Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart (see full recap).

Westbrook triple-double lifts Thunder over Lakers
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook scored 17 points in his 28th triple-double of the season, and his new teammates fit in seamlessly as the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 110-93 on Friday night.

Westbrook also had 18 rebounds and 17 assists for the 65th triple-double of his career.

It was the first game for new Thunder players Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, acquired Thursday in a trade with the Chicago Bulls. Gibson scored 12 points and McDermott added eight, even though they arrived Thursday night and weren't even available for shootaround on Friday.

Alex Abrines and Andre Roberson each set a career high with 19 points, and Steven Adams added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder.

D'Angelo Russell scored 29 for the Lakers (see full recap).

Pacers beat Grizzlies to snap six-game skid
INDIANAPOLIS -- CJ Miles made five 3-pointers and scored 17 points, Paul George had nine points and nine rebounds after remaining with Indiana following the trade deadline, and the Pacers snapped a six-game losing streak with a 102-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

Monta Ellis finished with 16 points, Myles Turner scored 12, and Lavoy Allen, Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young each added 10 for the Pacers.

The Pacers outscored the Grizzlies 64-42 across the middle two quarters and never relinquished their lead, leading by as many as 27 points in the second half. The Grizzlies finished the game shooting 41 percent from the floor (35 for 84).

Troy Daniels had 13 points for Memphis and Marc Gasol scored 12. Indiana outrebounded Memphis 50-39 and scored 29 points off 17 Grizzlies turnovers (see full recap).

Thrust into bigger role, Sixers' Holmes stars in win over Wizards

Thrust into bigger role, Sixers' Holmes stars in win over Wizards

BOX SCORE

For as much as the Sixers’ bigs are talked about, Richaun Holmes often is left out of the conversation. 

He’s not the centerpiece of the team like Joel Embiid nor was he heavily involved in trade talks like Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. He is the backup center who bides his time on the bench and quietly stays ready when he gets the nod.

And on Friday, he was the standout player in the Sixers’ 120-112 win over the Wizards (see Instant Replay)

“He’s been sort of the person that people forget about because of the logjam of five men,” Brett Brown said. “We all sort of think, ‘Well, he should just accept it because he’s behind Joel and Nerlens and Jahlil. Good ol’ Richaun. Go to the D-League and it’s OK.’ And that doesn’t work. He’s a pro, he’s competitive. He’s handled it. He’s really been a wonderful teammate.”

Holmes was bumped up in the rotation following the trade of Noel to the Mavs. He moved into the second-unit role while Okafor started in place of the injured Embiid. 

Holmes recorded his first double-double with 12 points (6 for 9 from the field) and 10 rebounds (three offensive). He also blocked a career-high five shots, tying Embiid for the most by a Sixer this season. The second-year big man put together this impressive performance in 26 minutes off the bench (see feature highlight).

“Just play hard,” Holmes said of his approach. “Just go out there, show what you’ve been working on, play hard every second you’re out there. That’s the motto I’ve got.”

Holmes is averaging 16.1 minutes and has appeared in just 32 of the Sixers’ 57 games. This season, he also spent time with the Delaware 87ers of the Development League to get playing time. Holmes embraced an opportunity similar to Friday’s a month ago when he scored 18 points in as many minutes against the Clippers. 

“I try to approach every game this season the same way, whether everybody was playing or people were hurt,” Holmes said. “Prepare like I’m going to play 30 minutes a game. I think having that mindset helped me to stay ready at all times and be aggressive when I had a chance.”

Brown did not rule out the possibility that Holmes could start at some point if he continues this production. The Sixers are limiting Okafor to 20 to 24 minutes per game, according to Brown. That, combined with Embiid’s injury, could lend itself to an increased role for Holmes. 

“I think in that environment, it wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary for Richaun to get a start from time to time,” Brown said. 

Even if he remains on the second unit, Holmes proved he can provide a spark off the bench. Dario Saric noted how Holmes’ impact on both ends of the floor bolsters the frontcourt in addition to a more offensively-minded Okafor (11 points, two rebounds). 

“I think he played unbelievably good in both ways,” Saric said. “Everybody knows he’s an elite guy finishing around the rim, and he stepped in Nerlens’ place, he replaced him unbelievably good. I hope he will get the same minutes for the next game because we have Jahlil, who is more like a post-up player, who likes more to score from the low-post block, and we for sure need some guy like Richaun who will play in both ways." 

Perhaps the person least surprised by Holmes' game was Holmes himself. It was the result he puts in long hours to produce.

“It’s all about the grind,” he said. “All about keep working, keep trying to move up, keep trying to get better every second and it’ll pay off.”