When Charlotte and Temple tip-off on Wednesday night, it will be a game between two teams that are struggling in their own right. We are all well versed in the Niner’s struggles this season, including losing four of the last five, the last three without Phil Jones. On the other hand, the Owls sit at 13-5, having dropped two of their last three, both on the road to the two undefeated teams in conference, Duquesne and Xavier.
Temple Head Coach Fran Dunphy had this to say about his team’s recent play, ”I’m not sure who we are at this point, we’re stuggling a little bit.”
Up to this point in the season the Owls have lacked the consistency to retain the “elite” tag they had placed on them in the pre-season, when they were the choice to win the Atlantic 10 and ranked 22nd. There have been games when Senior Lavoy Allen has been contained by foul trouble, while Junior Juan Fernandez has been nursing a knee injury of late. In the games where Temple has struggled, they didn’t have a player step up and take over the game offensively. When players do step up, it never seems to be the same guy twice.
Junior Ramone Moore joins Fernandez in the back court and are Temple’s two leading scorers at 14.9 and 10.4 points per game, respectively. They are joined by sharpshooter Khalid Wyatt(43% 3-pt.) off the bench, but Fernandez tends to be a chucker, launching 75 from behind the arc and only knocking in 21(28%). One of Charlotte’s strengths this season has been defending the 3-point shot, holding opponents to 30.3%, good for 28th in the nation. On the other side of the equation Temple is only making 31. 8% of their 3-pointers, 254th nationally. If Major’s 2-3 zone can lure the Owl’s into throwing up too many ill-advised 3-pointers, Charlotte can keep the score from getting out of hand. Inside, Lavoy Allen(10.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Michael Eric(6.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg) will give Chris Braswell and KJ Sherrill a handful, the Niners will have to attack them both offensively to put them in foul trouble(hopefully using drives by Wilderness and Barnett), having those two on the bench is a sound way to stop them.
“They’re like a lot of teams in our league, anybody can beat us, there’s no question about that. You watch them play a team like Tennessee and they do such a spectacular job, then they’re ready to throw that at you at any moment,” said Coach Dunphy, who won’t be taking Charlotte lightly, also adding, “A great match-up for us, at a very opportune time to say to ourselves ‘We better get our act together because we’re gonna get a great challenge on Wednesday.”
But when it comes to playing defense, Temple remains master of its domain. The Owls are 17th nationally in defensive efficiency per KenPom’s rankings and have held teams such as Texas A&M, Georgia and Seton Hall under 60 points so far. Coach Major is well aware of the reputation Dunphy led teams have when it comes to defense.
“They’re just extremely well coached, when you think of them anytime, even Fran’s teams back at Penn, disciplined and sound are words to come to mind,”also adding, ”Temple has been a team that wants to play great position defense, they really are on a string together in terms of playing together defensively.”
Whether or not Charlotte has played a good defense or not, turnovers have been an issue the entire season. When there is an actual good defense facing the 49ers, such as the case Saturday at Duquesne, the end result is much like the 26 turnovers seen in the last game. It’s no secret to Major, or anyone else, what part of the problem is, “The next thing is just continuing, when we do drive the ball, to be under control and play off two feet. We had a handful of those that were on us, and that were our fault.” If Charlotte can’t shed the turnover the bug, this may get out of hand quickly, but should the Niners take care of the ball this could be anyone’s game.
If it turns out to be a close game, Coach Major knows it will still be up to Charlotte to make the necessary plays to win the game, “The A10 is a fine line conference, as we move forward we just want to get our guys to understand that we’ve had some positive play and it’s just a matter of sustaining it for longer stretches. Three or four plays in this league isn’t going to make a difference.”
Keys to the game:
- Restrict the number of turnovers offensively, this can’t be repeated enough, so please read it out loud…right now, “Restrict the number of turnovers offensively.”
- Put Allen and Eric in foul trouble early, neither of them can take the game over from the bench
- Force Owls, Fernandez specifically, into ill-advised 3-Pointers, but stay tight on Wyatt.
Preview from the bad guys at Owlified.net