Temple Owls

Temple's NCAA tourney hopes take a crushing blow

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Temple's NCAA tourney hopes take a crushing blow

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Whether it was simply coachspeak or the dawning realization that his team now has only one entry point into the NCAA Tournament, Fran Dunphy made a short but forceful declaration following Temple’s 80-59 loss to Houston on Sunday.

“We’ve got to win every game we play from here on in,” the Owls head coach said. “That’s the only thing we can do.”

Indeed, at this point, anything short of a perfect run through the American Athletic Conference tournament — which begins on March 8th following the Owls’ final three regular-season games — will likely relegate Temple to the NIT or worse.

The Cougars (21-5, 11-3 American) made sure of that by completely dominating the Owls (15-12 7-8) on their home court to suck the life out of the Liacouras Center — and Temple’s fading NCAA hopes.

“We never let them breathe,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. 

Houston has now won five straight to join nationally ranked Wichita State and Cincinnati atop the conference, making it increasingly likely that only those three squads will represent the American at the Big Dance. 

Temple, despite a conference record hovering around .500, had been making a nice push to join the party thanks to a potent strength of schedule, a couple of impressive November non-conference wins over Auburn and Clemson, and a recent five-game winning streak that included an overtime upset of Wichita State.

But after losing to the Shockers in a rematch on Thursday, the Owls likely needed to win out and then win at least a couple of more games in the AAC tournament to have a realistic shot of an at-large NCAA berth.

Houston ruined that by scoring the game’s first 15 points and never taking its foot off the gas from there en route to Sunday’s lopsided win.

“I think we came out really flat,” said Nate Pierre-Louis, who led the Owls with 13 points after watching the poor start from the bench. “I think we came out underestimating them. And they came out guns blazing, making everything. If we want to push forward, we can’t start out like that at all.”

Dunphy, who could be feeling some heat if Temple misses the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in five years, had a hard time explaining what went wrong. But he didn’t make excuses, whether it was the team having trouble with its charter flight leaving Wichita (“You figure it out, suck it up and do a better job”) or bouncing back in general from an emotionally draining game there (“[Houston] had a great win at home against Cincinnati, so they were probably more susceptible to a letdown than we were”).

He also didn’t hide from the fact that there wasn’t enough effort from his players.

“We were a step slow all day long,” Dunphy said. “We had decent rest, we worked hard enough, [assistant coach] Chris Clark had us very well prepared for the x-and-o piece. We were just slow all day.”

In no way was that more magnified than in Houston’s 53-22 rebounding advantage, including a 17-5 edge on the offensive end. The Cougars' 53 rebounds matched a Liacouras Center record.

When asked about that, Sampson pointed out that he recently learned his team was among the shortest in the nation. Clearly, though, their hunger makes up for that fact.

“I guess we’re short but it never crossed my mind that it mattered,” the Houston coach said. “What’s that old saying? If size were important, what happened to the dinosaurs?”

Dunphy had a less philosophical (and probably more scientifically accurate) approach to the rebounding discrepancy.

“We were just not disciplined enough on the rebounding side,” the Temple coach said. “They played very well, and obviously we didn’t play very well at all.”

Sadly for Temple fans, the Owls have had a few games this year when they didn’t play well. They’ve also had games where they’ve looked like world-beaters, making this a particularly maddening season.

So whether the Owls close the regular season strong and make a run in the conference tournament or crash out in the first round is anyone’s guess, really. But even after Sunday’s brutal loss, sophomore Quinton Rose forecasted some optimism as the up-and-down 2017-18 campaign winds down.

“I think we’re at our best when we have our backs against the wall,” said Rose, who scored 13 on Sunday. “So I have no doubt we can make a good run."

Temple keeps rolling with OT win over South Florida

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Temple keeps rolling with OT win over South Florida

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Nate Pierre-Louis scored 22 points, Shizz Alston Jr. had 20 points and nine assists and Temple beat South Florida 82-80 in overtime on Saturday despite LaQuincy Rideau's triple-double for the Bulls.

Rideau had 18 points, 10 assists and 10 steals to become the sixth Division I player in the last 20 seasons with a points-assists-steals triple-double. It was the second triple-double of the season in the American Athletic Conference, joining SMU's Jimmy Whitt Jr, and the first-ever at Liacouras Center.

Quinton Rose added 16 points for Temple (13-3, 3-1 American Athletic Conference), which won its eighth straight home game. J.P. Moorman II had 12 points and 13 rebounds.

Alexis Yetna had 24 points and nine rebounds for the Bulls (12-4, 2-2). David Collins added 16 points. The Bulls have had two other players record triple-doubles, with Adrian Hillman getting one against FAU in 1996 and McHugh Mattis versus Winston-Salem State in 2006.

South Florida was just 10 of 25 from the free-throw line, but had 17 steals and made 10 3-pointers.

Temple football introduces Rod Carey as new coach

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Temple football introduces Rod Carey as new coach

Temple University athletic director Patrick Kraft smiled and let out a little laugh when he took the podium to introduce the school's newest head coach, Rod Carey.

"I feel like Bill Murray in `Groundhog Day,' " Kraft said Friday.

It was just 29 days ago that Kraft and the university were welcoming Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz as the replacement for Geoff Collins, who left for Georgia Tech after two years at Temple. But that changed quickly after Hurricanes coach Mark Richt unexpectedly retired on Dec. 30. Some 12 hours later, Diaz had a five-year deal with Miami, and the Temple job was vacant again.

"We got punched a little," Kraft said. "You were like, `Whoa.' And then you get back at it."

Temple started a new search that officially ended Friday with the hiring of Carey, who was at Northern Illinois. Kraft said the parameters of the search didn't necessarily change, but a wider net was cast than the previous search, and being a head coach was a little more important this time around.

"Every search has its own personality," Kraft said. "No matter if it was 17, 18, 20, 30 days before, you have to re-evaluate yourself. You have to look at what's the right person for this time in this program. We took our time to find our coach. We wanted someone who truly understood North Philadelphia and truly understood who we were. Someone who wanted to be here. Someone who saw who we are and who we can be.

"We were looking for a proven winner. Someone who has a track record of winning and winning the right way."

Carey coached in parts of seven seasons at Northern Illinois, leading the Huskies to six bowl games (all losses) and compiling a 52-30 record. He was the 2013 Mid-American Conference coach of the year and won two MAC championships, including a 30-29 win over Buffalo in this year's title game.

In terms of finding someone who "wanted to be here," Carey appears to fit Temple's need.

"This is exactly where I want to be," the new coach said. "I told Dr. Kraft as we were going through this whole thing, I said, `Put whatever buyout you want on it. I don't care.' That's not important to me. What's important to me is I want to be here. I've said no other times. This is the right time and the right place."

Carey, who took over at NIU before the Orange Bowl at the end of the 2012 season, said it wasn't awkward being the second head coach hired in less than a month.

"They always made me feel like I was the guy they wanted," he said. "I've been this guy before. I was the third head coach in three years at NIU. Yes, I was the offensive coordinator for two of those years, but the guys on defense didn't know me."

The 47-year-old Carey started his college coaching career as a graduate assistant at Minnesota in 1998. He said he's in the process of making decisions on the rest of his coaching staff.