Temple buoyed by upset of SMU
It's only one win, but in a season that has been marked by several close losses to quality teams, Temple's 71-64 win on Sunday over visiting SMU is the type of victory that the Owls could build on.
"That's the hope," coach Fran Dunphy said. "That was a really good win against a top team in the country."
At the time coach Larry Brown's SMU Mustangs were ranked 23d. SMU has dropped out of this week's Associated Press rankings, but four other teams from Temple's conference, the American Athletic Association, are in the Top 25.
They are No. 7 Cincinnati, No. 11 Louisville, No. 21 Connecticut, and No. 22 Memphis.
Temple is 7-17, but the Owls have lost eight of those games by seven points or fewer.
One of the not-so-close games was a 75-52 loss at SMU on Feb. 6, so the Owls rebounded well.
Most impressive was that the Owls beat SMU without 6-foot-9 junior Anthony Lee, who is averaging 14 points and 8.9 rebounds but missed the game with a minor left-knee injury. Dunphy said Lee remained day to day.
Of course, Dunphy's message in the first practice after the SMU win was to forget about it. That's because the Owls host a Connecticut team on Thursday that beat Temple, 90-66, on Jan. 21.
"We have a long way to go and the next challenge is Connecticut," Dunphy said.
Still, he admitted that the win over SMU showed the Owls what they are capable of achieving.
"It gives you credibility that you can get a good result through hard work," Dunphy said.
More difficult than it looks
St. Joseph's just finished the most challenging six-game stretch of its schedule, going 4-2. At 17-7, the Hawks are in the running for an NCAA tournament berth.
The six-game stretch began with a loss at Richmond, but then the Hawks won at Dayton. That followed with three home games, a win over UMass, a loss to Atlantic Ten leader St. Louis, and a win over VCU. The stretch ended with Saturday's 75-64 win at La Salle.
Now comes a challenging game at Rhode Island, a team the Hawks beat, 61-57, at home.
"The Rhode Island game in Philadelphia, they won," St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. "We ended up getting more points, but in terms of style of play and getting things done, they were much better."
The Hawks won that game despite shooting 2 for 14 from beyond the arc and 21 of 38 from the foul line.
One person the Hawks have to watch is surging freshman guard E.C. Matthews, who has been named the A-10 rookie of the week three consecutive times. Matthews was held in check the first time against the Hawks, scoring four points and shooting 2 for 12.
Big play from big men
La Salle coach John Giannini made an interesting observation after Saturday's 75-64 loss to St. Joseph's.
Giannini lauded the play of his two junior big men, 6-11 Steve Zack and 6-8 Jerrell Wright, but then showed his disappointment in the guards, which have been the staple of the program.
"If somebody would have told you coming into the season that La Salle would have one of the top big-guy combinations in the A-10 or even outside the A-10, you would think, wow, that is going to be special team with as good as the guards are. But it hasn't gone that way and I am stunned," he said.
Zack is averaging 9.5 points and 9.7 rebounds and Wright is at 12.8 points and 6.3 rebounds.
La Salle senior point guard Tyreek Duren is shooting 42 percent from the field, best among the Explorers in the backcourt.
"Outside of Tyreek, we have been incredibly inconsistent, especially in terms of shooting," Giannini said.
Penn is 3-4 in the Ivy League, and while things are looking bleak halfway through the conference schedule, coach Jerome Allen remains positive.
"It is my responsibility to keep the guys engaged in the short term, and Friday is the most important game of the season," Allen said.
The Quakers host a Harvard team that shares the Ivy League lead with Yale. Both are 7-1.
Harvard beat visiting Penn, 80-50, on Feb. 1.
That concluded an 0-2 weekend in New England for the Quakers, who also lost to Dartmouth the night before, 67-58.
Penn will host Dartmouth (2-6 Ivy League) on Saturday.
"Mathematically we are not eliminated, and on the general scheme of things we have to get our players to understand that we have to control only what we can control," Allen said.
Villanova has realized what anybody else in college basketball does when playing Creighton - in order to win, a team has to contain all-American forward Doug McDermott.
The Wildcats' two losses to Creighton have been by a combined 49 points. In those games, McDermott shot 21 for 30 from the field, 9 for 14 from three- point range, and 11 of 11 from the foul line in scoring 62 points.
No wonder he's a leading candidate for player of the year.
The Wildcats, who lost, 101-80, on Sunday to Creighton, could meet the Bluejays in the Big East Tournament.
Turning the corner?
Drexel (14-11, 6-6 Colonial Athletic Association) has won three of its last four and has just four games to go before the CAA tournament, but coach Bruiser Flint isn't ready to say the team has turned the corner.
"I am not one of those turn-the-corner guys," he said.
Flint did say the team is healthier than it had been and is playing better defense. Even in the most recent loss, a 47-46 defeat at the College of Charleston, Flint said, the Dragons played well enough on defense to win. But they shot 0 for 9 from three-point range and just 12 of 25 from the foul line.