Temple Somehow Survives Buffalo Despite Key Frontcourt Injuries

Temple Somehow Survives Buffalo Despite Key Frontcourt Injuries

The players aren't sure how they did it. Their coach isn't sure either. The 4,161 fans at the Liacouras Center also more than likely lack an explanation.

Call it luck, determination or even divine intervention, but whatever it was the Temple Owls are surely grateful. Their 87-85 overtime win against the Buffalo Bulls on Wednesday was as ugly as it was practically inexplicable.

And while most will be understandably perplexed as to how the Owls pulled out a game in which they were forced to play a five-guard set for extended minutes, redshirt freshman Anthony Lee — whose last-second putback won the game for Temple — knows exactly where to give the credit.

"I think I'm really blessed," Lee said. "You know, I believe in God. So, at the end of the game, I was telling God, 'I know I've been playing bad this whole game, missing easy shots, not rotating, not doing the things I'm capable of doing.' And I wanted to make it up to my teammates, and to myself. And I had a feeling, really, that I was going to get a chance to do something, to get a tip or something, and it just … came through."

Help from up high seems as good as any explanation for Lee and the Owls, who struggled all night from the floor — shooting just 36.4 percent — but made every shot they needed to down the stretch. Indeed, that game-clinching putback was the only made field goal for the 6-9 forward during his 25 minutes played.

Khalif Wyatt, Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez all suffered similar struggles, shooting a combined 20 for 56. Still, in spite of those totals, all three would make key contributions from long range to keep the Owls in the game. The trio combined for 10 threes.

"I know we made some big shots," Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said.
"Khalif made a couple big shots. Juan made a big shot. But that's what
it takes: guys who have confidence in themselves to step up and make it
happen."

Temple regrouped from an early 12-3 deficit to ahead 35-34 at halftime, but fell behind 28 seconds into the second half and never regained the lead in regulation. Their largest deficit in the second half was six — on three separate occassions — with 4:23, 3:51 and 1:22 to go.

But with seconds left in OT and the game tied at 85, Wyatt missed a three, and Aaron Brown tipped the rebound to Lee, who hit a floater in the lane for the game-winner.

"I just saw the shot go up," Lee said, "and [Brown] tipped the ball back. I reached up and grabbed it and floated the ball up 'cause I saw time was expiring."

Temple (8-3) has now won six of its last seven and 25 straight at home, the longest streak in school history and fifth longest current streak in the nation (tied with Purdue). They finished the MAC portion of their out-of-conference schedule 3-1.

When asked how it felt to play as bad as both he and teammates admitted to playing and still come out on top, Fernandez was at something of a loss to explain it himself.

"I mean, when you analyze it after the game, it says something," he said.

Just what that something is, even his coach can't quite identify.     

"There was just a belief, I think, that these guys all had at the end," Dunphy said, "and I'm hoping that will be a signature of this team that they will find a way. We certainly didn't do a good job on the defensive end … but if you're going to tell me we won this game in a hard-fought fashion, and found a way to do it, I'll be pleased."

The errors on defense to which the coach is referring were no doubt exacerbated by the absence of 6-6 forward Scootie Randall and 6-10 center Michael Eric. Buffalo scored 50 of its 85 points in the paint, as 6-7 junior forward Javon McCrea led all scorers with 28 points on 12-for-16 shooting.

Try as he did, the 6-9, 205-pound Lee proved unable to fill the void left by injured veteran teammates. Regardless, Dunphy seemed grateful for and encouraged by the performance.

"McCrea is a tough guy to guard down there," Dunphy said. "So you're asking a redshirt freshman who is, again, tremendously undersized in terms of width and girth [to do that]. He tried, but he's got a whole lot of work to do."

"But he's what we got, and I don't want to have anybody else. He's a good kid — Anthony. And I was thrilled for him to have that last shot go down."

The fact that Lee even made it to the end of overtime is pretty impressive considering both he and power forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson had both registered four fouls with over nine minutes left to play.

At that point, Temple was forced into multiple occasions in which it had play five guards at once. In spite of their disadvantage in height, the Owls would still manage to outrebound the larger Bulls, 45-44, a total no doubt aided by their 19 offensive boards. Those putback opportunities coupled with 21 forced turnovers resulted in 50 points for a Temple team that  struggled to knock down jump shots.

If they're going to be successful moving forward, the Owls will need that sort of team effort when it comes to rebounding and forcing turnovers, as additional help doesn't appear to be coming soon. Eric is expected remain out for the next few weeks and Randall is seriously considering exercising his option to a medical redshirt; the latter could make an announcement regarding his status as early as Thursday.

"We're undersized and we're 'under-girthed,'" Dunphy said. "But that's the way it is. We're going to have to battle like crazy and find a way to win games. These guys came up with some big, big shots at the end, and I'm proud of their effort today. Unfortunately, I think we're going to have a lot of these down-to-the-wire games, and we're just going to have to find a way to survive."

Doug Pederson: Dak Prescott knew he didn't have to win by himself

Doug Pederson: Dak Prescott knew he didn't have to win by himself

For the most part, Carson Wentz had a pretty successful rookie season. 

Sure, the Eagles finished with a 7-9 record, but Wentz did enough to continue the franchise's belief that he is indeed the quarterback of the future. 

Another guy in Dallas did the same thing with the Cowboys. Actually, Dak Prescott had an even more impressive rookie season, leading the Cowboys to 13 wins, while winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. 

Prescott, a fourth-round pick, had a great year, but didn't try to do too much. And that's what impressed Eagles head coach Doug Pederson the most. 

"[Prescott] understood this right away, that he didn't have to win the game for them," Pederson said on The Doomsday Podcast, hosted by Matt Mosley and Ed Werder. (Pederson also talked about running the Rocky steps). "He knew that he had a good defense, a tremendous offensive line, a great runner, he had some veteran players that he could rely on and he learned that early. As soon as he had the opportunity to play and that was early, from Day 1. 

"That's something that a young quarterback, sometimes it takes them a while to figure out the game that way. That's the impressive thing, that he learned how to handle that business that well, utilize the people around him and understand that he didn't have to go win the game."

While Prescott had plenty of help during his rookie season, it was pretty evident Wentz was lacking in that area. 

Prescott had a great offensive line, Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott and others. Wentz had an offensive line that was missing Lane Johnson, an often-injured Ryan Mathews and receivers like Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham playing serious snaps. 

So it made sense when the team went out this offseason and signed Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and recently LeGarrette Blount, as free agents, finally getting Wentz some real help. 

"We had opportunities to get those two guys and it was obvious last year, we were young at the wide receiver position," Peterson said. "We needed some leadership, some veteran presence there and we went out and got that with Torrey and Alshon. We still want to build through the draft, we still want to acquire young talent. 

"LeGarrette Blount now is a guy that gives us that big back, running back, that can come in and compete and hopefully he does everything he did at New England the last couple of seasons. He had 18 rushing touchdowns for over 1,000 yards and we just expect that same level of performance here."

Maybe having weapons will allow Wentz to do what made Prescott so impressive to Pederson in 2016: not too much. 

Tonight's lineup: Michael Saunders dropped to eighth in order

Tonight's lineup: Michael Saunders dropped to eighth in order

Pete Mackanin is still searching for answers to the Phillies' offensive woes following Sunday afternoon's disheartening 1-0 loss in Pittsburgh during which the Phils could only muster three hits.

The latest lineup twist as the search for an answer continues will see Michael Saunders bat in the eight-hole tonight as the Phils open a four-game series with the surging Rockies tonight at Citizens Bank Park (see game notes).

When he has started this season, Saunders has been a fixture within the middle of the Phillies' order. After all, the offseason free-agent signing was an All-Star for Toronto last season when he hit 24 homers and drove in 57 runs.

But this season hasn't gone as planned as Saunders is hitting just .232 with four homers and 15 RBI in 41 games with the Phils this season.

With Saunders' drop down the lineup, Tommy Joseph will bat fourth, Maikel Franco fifth and Odubel Herrera sixth against Rockies spot starter Jeff Hoffman.

Tonight's full lineups can be found below:

Phillies
1. Cesar Hernandez 2B
2. Freddy Galvis SS
3. Aaron Altherr LF
4. Tommy Joseph 1B
5. Maikel Franco 3B
6. Odubel Herrera CF
7. Cameron Rupp C
8. Michael Saunders RF
9. Jerad Eickhoff SP

Rockies
1. Charlie Blackmon CF
2. D.J. LeMehiau 2B
3. Nolan Arenado 3B
4. Carlos Gonzalez RF
5. Mark  Reynolds 1B
6. Gerardo Parra LF
7. Alexi Amarista SS
8. Tony Wolters C
9. Jeff Hoffman SP