Owls vs. Owls: Temple/Rice Preview

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Anthony Bellino (@Bellino_Anthony)

Friday at the Liacouras Center is sure to be a nocturnal affair as the Temple Owls play host to the Rice Owls in Temple’s home opener.

Temple (1-0) is coming off an 80-66 victory in their season opener against Kent State, Rice (1-1) comes into the matchup already playing two games, a loss to St.
Thomas and a win vs. St. Edwards.

Temple may be without all-Atlantic 10 preseason selection, senior Khalif Wyatt who suffered a hamstring injury against the Golden Flashes. Coach Fran Dunphy said that there were no new developments in the injury and it was up to the doctors.

“We’ll see, he may get some time, I’m not sure,” Dunphy said. “It’ll be up to the doctor and the trainer and we’ll go from there.”

If Temple is indeed without Wyatt against Rice, graduate student T.J. DiLeo and sophomore Will Cummings will have to handle most of the ballhandling. Against Kent State, DiLeo had nine points to go along with three assists and three rebounds. Cummings didn’t have any points, added three assists and two rebounds but also had three turnovers. Dunphy said that Cummings didn’t play his best and that DiLeo played well, stating that they both knew what had to be done to secure a victory.

“I thought they [DiLeo and Cummings] understood what we were trying to do well, sometimes our execution wasn’t great,” Dunphy said. “I didn’t think Will had one of his better games, I thought T.J did well, it’s his fifth year in college so he’s going to understand a little bit more than Will but they did their jobs.”

One of the big questions coming into Temple’s season was how much could Anthony Lee improve coming into his sophomore season where he would be expected to start every game and produce more baskets. Against the Golden Flashes Lee had 16 points and eight rebounds and another big night could be expected against Rice as their tallest starters, sophomore Seth Gearhart and freshman Ross Wilson each stand 6-foot-7, Lee stands 6-foot-9. Lee was happy with his performance but said that there is always room for improvement.

“I felt like my performance was pretty good, I give a lot of credit to my teammates for looking for me and finding me,” Lee said.

Lee also said that he could already feel the 20 pounds that he added to his frame in the offseason helping him in the paint.

“It helped me a lot, going to the basket, bumping people off or finishing with contact when people try to foul me,” he added.

Rice is led by a trio of double-digit scorers in freshman guard Max Guercy, sophomore forward Seth Gearhart and senior guard Tamir Jackson. Last season in Rice’s 77-70 loss to Temple Jackson had 11 points and seven assists, while Gearhart added five points in 10 minutes of work. Dunphy said that Rice runs their offensive sets well and it’s one thing that may cause problems for the Owls defense.

“They run their offense very hard, they have great spacing and great understanding of what they’re doing,” Dunphy said. “They have a couple of guys that are going to be hard for us to defend so I do see a number of things that present problems to us.”

The Matchups
Will Cummings vs. Max Guercy
Cummings and Guercy are two players who are relatively new to the college game. Tuesday against Kent State was only Cummings’ third career start, and Guercy is a true-freshman. Guercy is listed at 5-foot-9 and Cummings at 6-foot-2, making it an interesting matchup of quick point guards who will look to get out in transition.

T.J. DiLeo vs. Tamir Jackson
Possibly the most intriguing matchup of the night, Jackson is a senior who lettered his first three seasons and DiLeo is a graduate senior. Through two games Jackson is averaging a double-double for Rice (12.5 ppg, 10.0 rpg) and DiLeo, who is expected to replace the injured Wyatt, is a defensive specialist although he scored nine points on three of four shooting against Kent State. Jackson has nine turnovers through two games; DiLeo only had one against the Golden Flashes.

Scootie Randall vs. Julian DeBose
Randall had a memorable comeback game in his first live action since the 2011 NCAA tournament with a 31 point performance at Kent State. To go along with his 31 points he added four rebounds and four steals. For the season DeBose is averaging 8.5points and six rebounds, but if Randall is shooting the ball the way he did against Kent State DeBose will have his hands full with the fifth-year senior.

Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson vs. Seth Gearhart
Hollis-Jefferson is a player who’s going to go out and grind, a power forward who stands 6-foot-6 has to. He filled the stat sheet against Kent State doing a little bit of everything with three points, three blocks, three steals, three rebounds and two assists. Gearhart is a scorer for Rice, averaging 12.5 points per game, the 6-foot-7 sophomore isn’t afraid to step behind the arch either, he’s made on in each of their first two games.

Anthony Lee vs. Ross Wilson
Lee had a big game against Kent State scoring 16 points and hauling in 8 rebounds, Dunphy said Lee “Did a great job rebounding and finished well in the second half, although he missed one that could’ve ended the game.” Lee is normally undersized at center standing 6-foot-9, but against Rice’s Ross Wilson he will have a two inch advantage. Wilson, a freshman averages 6.5 points and 3.5 rebounds will need to play bigger than 6-7 to give Rice a chance at stopping Lee in the paint. If Wilson gets into foul trouble it will be a long night for Rice in the paint.

Notable Reserves: Temple used an eight man rotation for the majority of the game against Kent State. Transfers Jake O’Brien and Dalton Pepper made their debuts for the Owls off of the bench O’Brien had 6 points on 2 of 4 for behind the three-point line. Pepper added four points and four rebounds. If Wyatt can’t play as it is unknown if he will or will not, expect freshmen Quenton DeCosey and Daniel Dingle to get their first taste of real minutes.

Rice has eight players that average double-digit minutes per game, Rice’s sixth man, 6-foot-1 freshman guard Keith Washington averages 20.5 minutes per game and in those minutes Jackson averages seven points and four rebounds.

Noteworthy News: Temple announced today that they would be competing in the 2013 Charleston Classic. This will be the second time they compete in the event, Temple will join UAB, Clemson, Georgia, Nebraska, New Mexico and two more teams later to be named.

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