Shorthanded Owls fall to USF
Everyone figured that depth could turn out to be an issue this season on North Broad.
But last night at the Liacouras Center, it finally became too much to overcome.
On Dec. 29, Temple lost sophomore swingman Daniel Dingle for the season with a knee injury suffered at practice. Saturday at Central Florida, one of the Owls' big men, freshman Mark Williams, sprained an ankle.
Then, in the first half against South Florida last night, leading scorer Will Cummings went out with concussion-like symptoms after taking a hit to his head. All of which left coach Fran Dunphy with seven guys, one of whom was a former walk-on who'd played 7 minutes this season.
Still, the Owls somehow managed to turn a halftime tie into a 10-point lead with 9 1/2 minutes to go. With 2 minutes remaining they were down by only one. But they simply didn't have enough left, and made only one of four free throws the rest of the way as the Bulls (10-6, 1-2 American Athletic Conference) got the win, 82-75.
The Owls (5-8, 0-3), who've lost a lot of close ones, will now host No. 24 Memphis tomorrow afternoon. The same Memphis that just won at No. 12 Louisville.
"You never know why things in life happen," said Owls junior big man Anthony Lee, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds in 37 minutes. "This is life. I'm not going to say we're unlucky. It's just not falling our way right now."
The Owls, who were playing their first home game since Dec. 18, have lost three straight and five of their last six. Chances are, Cummings will be out for at least the Memphis game. Williams dressed, but was available only on an emergency basis.
"I asked him at one point if he could go and he said, 'Yeah, I can,' " Dunphy said. " 'I don't know how much, but I'll give you what I have.' It had to get a little more dire . . . I'm concerned about a lot of things at this point."
Want-to isn't one of them.
"There's not a question about the effort piece," Dunphy said. "That's been there throughout the year. We had lapses of focus tonight that hurt us, as well."
Fair enough. It's also a logical assumption that even if they just had Cummings, it would have made the difference.
"We were fortunate to get out of here with a win," said USF coach Stan Heath, who beat Temple in the opening round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament in the teams' only other meeting. "We felt if we got to the last 6 or 7 minutes, we had the numbers, and it would be to our advantage."
The Bulls, who had lost two straight and four of five, were without point guard Anthony Collins (knee) for the sixth consecutive game. And they lost one of the AAC's best freshman, Chris Perry, with 10:45 to go when he got his fifth foul on a technical for throwing the ball down way too hard after getting whistled for a call he didn't agree with. But they had eight guys get double-digit minutes. Only two got more than 29, none more than 35.
The Owls had three go at least 37. And Jimmy McConnell, who averages 10, went 31. But he did score 10, or one more than his career total heading into the game.
"It was pretty cool," he said, "but we didn't get the win so . . . "
Sophomore Quenton DeCosey, who went the full 40, had 20 points. Dalton Pepper, the lone senior, had 17. Inevitably, though, the lack of fresh bodies had an impact at both ends.
"It's heartbreaking, a little bit," Lee said. "You don't want to make any excuses, but it's a real tough challenge. Guys try to do what they can. We're very limited in what we have to offer. All of us in our mind know there's no margin for error.
"We've got to do something . . . Pray . . . Be more closer as a team than ever. It's not like we lost three and have three more we can swap in and out. There's only so many guys we can go to. And some of them are still trying to learn. It's been a weird thing. But dang, we only had five, six or seven, and we were still in the game."
Nobody said this first season in a new conference was supposed to be easy. Or fair.
"We've knocked on wood a number of times," Dunphy said. "Whether you have 10 players or 13, you're just hoping to stay healthy. It's happened so quickly in succession. A month ago, we were OK. There's not a lot we can do about it. We're in the soup now. We've got to figure out a way to get out. There's a lot of season left, too."
If this keeps up, that might not be the good news.
Devin Coleman, a 6-2 guard from Clemson, is transferring to Temple. The Friends' Central product, who sat out last season with a knee injury, played in 10 games (one start) this season for the Tigers, averaging 5.4 points in 11 minutes. He'll have 1 1/2 seasons of eligibility remaining, after sitting out the first semester next season.