Andrew Koob (@AndrewKoob)
Almost a week after joining five other Division-I programs with 1,800 wins, the Temple Owls (10-2) will get a chance to go toe-to-toe with one such program on Sunday afternoon.
The Owls will travel to Allen Fieldhouse to take on the No. 6 Kansas Jayhawks (11-1) to take a shot at bringing down another top-ten team this season.
“They’re a great group of guys, very talented, their coaching staff is great and the atmosphere is amazing and that’s what they drive off of,” Temple forward Scootie Randall said before the Owls practiced on Friday. “We just have to keep those guys out of transition and we just have to go in there and play ball. They’re really tough on both ends of the floor and you see they’ve been winning games by out-toughing their opponent.”
Kansas comes into Sunday’s game are shooting 50.4 percent from the field, 10th best in the country, while only allowing their opponents to shoot 34.7 percent, which is the fifth-best mark. On top of that, the Jayhawks are scoring 78.4 points per game, the 26th-best mark in the nation, and allowing 59 points per game, 40th best in the nation. The scoring and shooting difference have Temple coach Fran Dunphy impressed with Sunday’s opponent.
“There’s no weakness, is what I see,” Dunphy said. “The fact that they shoot the ball at such a high percentage and they defend it at such a low percentage, that’s a big gap. I don’t know if we’ve faced anybody with that kind of gap this year. It’s an extraordinary team that can go on these runs, we’re really going to have to manage our offensive game in order to prevent those runs from happening.”
In comparison, Duke is shooting 48.4 percent from the field (20th best) and allowing 38.8 percent from the opposition (54th best), while Syracuse has shot 46.5 percent (48th best) and allowed their opponents to shoot 35.3 percent (10th best).
“They’ve got some great size, but they’ve also have some great perimeter defenders and athletic guys, so it’s going to be about being patient, managing the game, taking what the defense gives us,” Owls guard Khalif Wyatt said. “We definitely want to play inside-out, but it’s going to be about who can go in there and who can get loose balls and who can make free throws down the stretch. Just have to manage the game and make sure we’re good.”
In both games against Duke and Syracuse, Temple found itself in a hole. While they couldn’t mount a comeback at the Izod Center against the Blue Devils, the Owls dug themselves out, thanks to forward Jake O’Brien, against Syracuse in toppling the then-No. 3 Orange. Temple guard T.J. DiLeo believes that, if the Owls find themselves down again, they can’t panic if they want to pull out the victory.
“When we’re down ten, someone needs to step up,” DiLeo said. “Jake hit a couple big shots [against Syracuse] to get us back in it and, a lot of times, that’s what games come down to. If you’re team steps up, takes a punch and gets back up again and fights back, that’s what it takes. In any basketball game, I think that’s what it takes, even if we get down a few points, we can’t panic, we just have to chip away at the lead and get back in the game.”
Not only will Temple have to deal with a tough Jayhawks squad, they’ll have to deal with the Kansas fans that stuff Allen Fieldhouse every game. Playing in a venue such as the one in Lawrence, Kansas can have even the most senior players nervous before tipoff.
“It’s natural,” Wyatt said. “I can’t speak for all of my teammates, but I know it’s natural to have jitters, especially in a hostile environment, but once the ball’s thrown up and you get a chance to run up and down the court, it starts feeling like another game and you just have to go out and play basketball.”
“For me, a little bit before the game, but as soon as the game starts, you forget about it,” DiLeo added. “You’re just back on the basketball court where you’ve been for so long, so before the game? Yeah, but as soon as that whistle blows, it’s the same thing as any basketball game. You forget about the crowd and just play against the opponent.”
Randall earns undergraduate degree
Following the Fall 2012 semester, Randall earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology, joining DiLeo and O’Brien as Owls playing with their undergraduate degree.
“It means a lot, being the second person in my family to get a degree behind my sister, so it means a lot to me and I know it means a lot to my family and people who have been close to me throughout my years in college,” Randall said. “I can’t say it was easy, it’s been a struggle and I’m glad that Temple gave me the opportunity to help me, even when I had down times.”
Dunphy knows that Randall earning his degree was a great accomplishment, but also believes that it speaks volumes as to what Temple as a whole brings to the table.
“I think it means a lot to the program, but obviously it means a lot to Scootie and his family,” Dunphy said. “It makes a great statement as to what Temple’s mission is. We run from honor students to some at-risk people that are given opportunities at Temple and here’s a case for us where Temple gave Scootie an opportunity, he has absolutely met the challenge and he was up to the task. It also says a lot about Temple and how it’s a great nurturing environment, a great mentoring environment and it put its arms around Scootie years back and it’s been a great team process.
“It makes you feel good that these guys are saying ‘it’s important that I play basketball, that’s the reason why I got my chance, but I’ve got my chance and I took advantage of it’. It’s a wonderful thing to watch these guys go through graduation, like last year with Ramone Moore and his family. It’s great to see.”