Temple Pulls out Road Win over Delaware, Though Struggles Persist

Temple Pulls out Road Win over Delaware, Though Struggles Persist

Make it two in a row for the Temple Owls when it comes to playing and winning needlessly troublesome basketball games. While Buffalo was admittedly a bad matchup on Wednesday given the Owls' lack of size under the basket, Delaware's considerably shorter lineup should have never been an issue.

Alas, it was, as Temple barely escaped the Carpenter Center on Friday night 66-63, notching their 17th straight victory over the Blue Hens.

Delaware sophomore Devon Saddler led all scorers with 18, but could not hit an off-balance three-point attempt to tie the game as time expired. He, along with freshman guard Jarvis Threatt, made life difficult for the Owls in the second half, repeatedly beating the Temple perimeter defense off dribble-drives to the basket.

"On the defensive end, we're still struggling a little bit," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said during his post-game interview. "We've got to be better in terms of keeping people out of the lane.

"One time, Juan [Fernandez] gave up a dribble-penetration move by Saddler, and we've got to be better at keeping people in front of us without fouling. So, we'll continue to work at that, but we need to be better on defense."

Unlike Saddler, who was consistent all night only to come up short at the end, Temple's Khalif Wyatt went just 1 for 10 from the field before nailing home a three to put the Owls up one with 35 seconds remaining. He then snagged a defensive rebound off a missed Kyle Anderson jumper, and eventually found himself at the foul line, where he drained both of his free throws to put Temple ahead by three with just six seconds left on the game clock.

His struggles earlier in the night aside, neither Wyatt's coaches nor his teammates had any doubt in his capabilities when it came time for junior guard to make the play that would ultimately win the
game for Temple.

"My teammates told me to keep shooting," said Wyatt when asked if his
confidence was shaken after his 1 for 10 start. "The coaches on the
sideline told me to keep shooting. That the last shot was over. They
kept trusting me. [Ramone Moore] gave me the ball. He trusted me at the end of
the game and...I just shot it."

"I wasn't surprised that he made it," Dunphy said of the shot. "I wasn't
surprised that he took it. And I wasn't surprised that Ramone had the
presence of mind to set him up like he did. Ramone had great confidence in
Khalif and he came through."

"The reality is, with [Wyatt, Fernandez and Moore]...somebody asked me a question as to why we gave the ball to Khalif at the end of the Buffalo game. You can almost take turns with all three of those guys. They all can make plays. They all can make shots. They all have the confidence in themselves to do good work. So, it doesn't make much difference who's going to take that shot at end."

And while their coach is right that they have all demonstrated their abilities to close at the end of a game, they have also produced their share of cold stretches. Much like Wednesday against Buffalo, all three of Temple's starting guards struggled to find their jump shots. Posting a combined 9 for 36 from the floor — their followup to 20 of 56 performance against the Bulls — all three found themselves on the bench for extended stretches in favor of sophomore Aaron Brown, junior T.J. DiLeo and freshman Will Cummings.

Thankfully, the bench would come up big for the Owls when it needed to, with Brown making three key baskets to keep Temple alive in the first half, Cummings twice regaining the lead for the Owls in the second, and DiLeo both throwing down a dunk and taking a charge to energize his team during the late stages of the game.

"I'll tell you, sometimes you're flying by the seat of your pants. You're hoping the matchups can be okay," Dunphy said of the extended minutes he received from his bench. "You want to give Will minutes. And you want to give T.J. minutes. And Aaron Brown — he's as hard of a worker as he have; so, he deserves minutes. You just hope you're picking the right guys and the right times, and somehow we figured it out tonight."

This is the second game in a row in which Temple has just barely managed to "figure it out" in time to avoid losses to opponents they were easily favored to beat. It is doubtful they will have the luxury of sorting out their troubles so late in the proceedings when they take on Duke next Wednesday night.

Notes
The announced attendance of 4,234 was the largest crowd at the Carpenter Center since Delaware hosted Hofstra in 2005...Friday night was Delaware's first home loss of the season...Temple freshman Anthony Lee finished tied a career-high 12 points and chipped in seven rebounds...Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson to Khalif Wyatt when the duo was asked about Temple's struggles on defense: "You're Mr. Talkative, right?"...Hollis-Jefferson would finish 13 points and 8 rebounds on 5-10 shooting.

Record-breaking crowds flood the Parkway for NFL Draft Experience in Philly

Record-breaking crowds flood the Parkway for NFL Draft Experience in Philly

Who needs to the Pope when you have Ginger Jesus?

The NFL Draft Experience joined a long list of wildly popular events in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and all along the Ben Franklin Parkway.

The NFL announced today that nearly 100,000 fans enjoyed the experience, the most-ever for a draft-related event, on day 1 of the draft alone.

Fans flooded into the Experience with people from all across the country in town to support their respective teams. Eagles fans clearly dominated the crowd, however, as you couldn't go a few minutes without hearing an E-A-G-L-E-S chant. 

ESPN also showed some love all night long. SportsCenter's Scott Van Pelt called the story of the night in Philadelphia the city of Philly itself. Adam Schefter called it the "wildest, most raucous crowd in draft history." Jon Gruden called Philly "one of the greatest football towns on the planet."

Aside from not being totally in love with their first pick Derek Barnett upon first blush, Philly fans showed off wonderfully. Even the booing of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell came off as cute.

The Draft Experience is open again on Friday from noon until 11:00 pm and on Saturday from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm. It's free for all fans.

Try the games, avoid the cheesesteaks. And bring some sunscreen (ugh).

By the numbers: Jeremy Hellickson legitimately among NL's best the last year

By the numbers: Jeremy Hellickson legitimately among NL's best the last year

Unless you're a die-hard Phillies fan, you might not grasp just how good Jeremy Hellickson has been since the start of 2016.

Hellickson, who allowed one run in six innings Thursday to improve to 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA this season, hasn't just been solid — he's legitimately been one of the best pitchers in the National League.

Some stats to back it up:

• Hellickson has a 1.11 WHIP the last two seasons. That's a better mark than Noah Syndergaard, Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels, David Price, Dallas Keuchel, Jose Quintana and Chris Archer have.

• Over the last calendar year, Hellickson's 3.29 ERA ranks ninth-best in the NL. Over that span he has a lower ERA than some really good pitchers like Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke, Carlos Martinez, Hamels, Quintana and Rick Porcello. It's almost identical to Chris Sale's 3.26 ERA over that span.

• Hellickson over the last calendar year has walked 2.03 batters per nine innings. That's fifth-best in the NL behind only Mike Leake, Bartolo Colon, Madison Bumgarner and Syndergaard. (Jerad Eickhoff is a spot below Hellickson at 2.05 and then comes Max Scherzer at 2.08).

• How has Hellickson been so effective with so low a strikeout rate? He's thrown exactly 250 pitches since 2016 on the low-outside corner and low-inside corner. That's fifth-most in the majors, behind only Jon Lester, Zach Davies, Keuchel and Kyle Hendricks. Paint.

This stat refers to zones 17 and 19 in the image below.

Of course, Hellickson has done this with an extremely low strikeout rate. He's never been a big strikeout guy, but he did say Thursday he's been a bit surprised to have this much success in 2017 with his lowest career K rate. 

Hellickson has a very low batting average on balls in play which will regress closer to his career average, but it's not as if luck is the sole factor here. As mentioned above, he's hit spots as well as almost anyone in the majors. 

And the changeup, his elite pitch, gets some swings and misses but more often results in weak contact and quick outs. The worm will turn at some point, but Hellickson shouldn't be expected to fall off a cliff and revert back into a pitcher with a high-4.00s ERA.

The Phillies did well with this acquisition two offseasons ago and may have been fortunate things with Hellickson worked out the way they did. He has even more trade value now than he did a year ago.