Temple Starts Strong in Puerto Rico with 69-55 Win over Western Michigan

Temple Starts Strong in Puerto Rico with 69-55 Win over Western Michigan

Michael Eric registered a double-double and pulled down a career-high 15 rebounds to get Temple off to a fast start in San Juan. The Owls handled the Western Michigan Broncos by a final score of 69-55 in the first round of the 5-Hour Energy Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

Eric looked like a completely different player as compared to his performance against the Quakers on Monday night. Rather than showing rust and looking out of place, Eric returned to form as the "Nigerian Nightmare." Appearing smoother with the ball and placing himself in much better position on defense, the fifth-year senior carried the Owls through a first half in which they did not shoot well at all from range.

Coach Fran Dunphy discussed Eric's defensive positioning at length in his post game press conference on Monday night. Characterizing his development as a continuing work in progress, the coach specifically mentioned his needed improvement in "timing his blast" to step out and pick up opponents on the perimeter. Showing signs that he's adapting to life without Lavoy Allen, Eric evidenced sound defense both above and below the arc. During a Western Michigan possession early in the second half, Mike popped out to cover a guard at the top of the key, but stopped in time so as not to overrun the play. He followed his man to the basket, altered the shot and then swatted away a potential put back on the ensuing rebound. Though it was only one possession, he showed clear signs that he is becoming the player the Owls will need him to be for 30+ minutes per game this season.

At the other end of the floor, the return of Khalif Wyatt from a one-game suspension also played a big role in improving the Owls' spacing and cohesion on offense. After hearing that his suspension was as a result of "the most minor of infractions," Doug Gottlieb explained on the broadcast that Khalif had played in an unregistered summer league during the off-season. The news clarifies coach Dunphy's comments from after the Penn game that Khalif's infraction was an issue that team's across the country all face in some regard. According to Gottlieb, Wyatt understood what he did, alerted Dunphy, and, together, they took the unfortunate, but necessary step of suspending the junior guard for the season opener. You can file this as #12,456,894,211 on the list of "What's Wrong with the NCAA in the Modern Day."

Anyway, on the floor, the Owls struggled from the field in the first half, shooting just over 31%. Though they would finish just 22-66 total, Wyatt, Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez would all stretch the Temple lead to as much as 20 in the second half with a barrage of made 3's. By the end, all five starters—Fernandez, Moore, Wyatt, Eric and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson—would finish in double figures.

Shots aren't always going to fall, sometimes that's out of the players' control. What is in their control, as Dunphy will surely remind them, is cutting down on their 14 turnovers against the Broncos.

The Owls will attempt to follow up Thursday's win when they face the Purdue Boilermakers at 1 p.m. of ESPN U.

Nerlens Noel posts thankful message to Philly fans

Nerlens Noel posts thankful message to Philly fans

Nerlens Noel's tenure in Philadelphia wasn't characterized by a whole lot of winning, but he'll still likely be remembered fondly by Sixers fans as being one of the original members of the process.

It's always an emotional time when a fan favorite departs for another city and a new team instead of seeing the championship aspirations many had for them in Philly through to fruition.

Noel posted an emotional message to his Twitter account on Thursday evening thanking the city of Philadelphia and its fans for the support they showed him through the ups and downs. 

The tweet contained the hashtag #Philly with a couple of exclamation points with a screenshot of a note that read:

What an exciting journey it’s been… To have such an amazing city embrace a kid from Boston coming out of Kentucky the way y’all did, is something I’ll truly never forget. And even through the ups and downs I never doubted the love here and that won’t change. Thank you to everybody that’s believed in me and supported through #TheProcess.

Love! -NN4

Noel was traded earlier in the day to the Dallas Mavericks for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut, and a conditional first round pick that will likely turn into two second round picks.

Bryan Colangelo will address the media on Friday morning to discuss his rationale behind moving Nerlens.

Related:

>>Every reason why the Nerlens Noel trade was unjustifiable 

>>Video: Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid say their goodbyes 

>>Joel Embiid reacts to Nerlens trade on Twitter: 'Trust it'

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Nerlens Noel emerged from the trainer’s room in a red sweatshirt and made his rounds of handshakes and hugs. It would be his last time in the Sixers' training complex as a member of the team, marking the end of the longest-tenured player’s stay in Philadelphia.

The Sixers traded Noel to the Mavericks on Thursday for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a top-18 protected first-round pick, according to a source (see story). He went through a portion of practice and was removed from it because of the deal. 

Noel’s now former teammates had a strong reaction to his departure. 

“Nerlens, he’s my guy,” Joel Embiid said. “He’s been my best friend since I got to Philly and I’m happy for him. He wants to start. I think in Dallas he’s going to get the chance to start and they’re going to re-sign him and they’re going to pay him a lot of money. Here it was kind of hard for him to start unless they were starting us together. But I’m happy for him. He’s going to get the chance he wanted.”

Noel’s future with the Sixers had been in question for two years as he enters restricted free agency this summer. Last season, the team struggled to find a way for him and Jahlil Okafor, both true centers, to play together. This season, the logjam was magnified when Embiid made his debut and took over the starting role. 

Noel candidly spoke out about the overcrowding at the beginning of the season but that situation was sidetracked when he missed 23 games because of injury. Once he returned, he quickly was on the short end of minutes. 

“I need to be on the court playing basketball,” Noel said in mid-December. “I think I’m too good to be playing eight minutes. Like, no, that’s crazy. That’s crazy. That’s crazy. They need to figure this s--- out.”

The Sixers did figure out his role, later making him the defensive leader of the second unit as Okafor became the odd man out. The Sixers also considered the possibility of pairing Noel and Embiid in the starting lineup, as they did with Embiid and Okafor, but that experiment played out only over a handful of minutes. 

“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Embiid said of not playing more alongside Noel. “I thought we should have tried that a little bit more. I think the few times we did, it actually looked pretty good offensively and defensively.”

Of the bigs, it seemed like Okafor would be the one moved at the deadline after being held out of two games because of trade talks. In the end, it was Noel as the one to go on Thursday. 

“He’s one of my favorite players here,” Dario Saric said. “He’s always ready for jokes, he’s always ready to enjoy every moment.” 

Noel was the only player remaining from Brown’s first season as head coach with the Sixers. Brown could not comment on the Noel trade because it was not official at the time he addressed the media. 

Ilyasova leadership missed
On Wednesday night the Sixers dealt Ersan Ilyasova to the Hawks for Tiago Splitter, a 2017 second-round pick and 2017 second-round pick swap rights. Even though Ilyasova played only 53 games for the Sixers, the veteran leader left his mark.

“He was a consummate pro,” Brown said. “He helped teach our young guys about that professionalism and helped contribute to our culture. He was good. You add those things up and we’re going to miss him.” 

Ilyasova’s departure affects those who played with him and behind him. Embiid credited Ilyasova for stretching the floor when they were in the starting lineup together. 

Saric, though, is perhaps the most impacted by the trade. Saric moved to the second unit when Ilyasova took over the starting role. He learned from his fellow international power forward, who helped him adjust to the NBA on and off the court. Saric is likely to get the nod as a starter. 

“For me, it’s hard,” Saric said. “I lost in Ersan some kind of mentor.” 

Brown also plans to play Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes at power forward at times, as well. If Covington slides over from small forward, Brown eyes Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Gerald Henderson and Nik Stauskas as players who could fill in at the three spot. 

The Sixers will resume activity on Friday morning for shootaround ahead of their game against the Wizards. They will approach that contest without familiar faces on the court. 

“I lost two good friends,” Saric said. “But this is the NBA. This is part of the business, part of the job.”