Lee Kunkel (@Kunkel5)
Texas Southern (3-7) vs. Temple (4-4)
When: Wednesday, December 18th
Where: Liacouras Center, Philadelphia PA
KenPom: Texas Southern 237, Temple 96
In a sentence… The Owls–coming off a heartbreaking loss to Texas–look to get back over .500 against a struggling Texas Southern team that has lost seven of their last eight games.
Getting to know the Tigers
Texas Southern hasn’t had the best last month or so. The Tigers are 3-7, and one of their three wins came against Wiley, a Division II team. They’ve lost seven of the last eight, and haven’t played a home game since that win over Wiley on November 11th.
That’s a long time on the road.
The Tigers are lead by a familiar face around the city of Philadelphia. Senior center Aaric Murray has had quite the collegiate career, starting at La Salle before transferring to West Virginia. Things didn’t work out in Morgantown, but it appears he has found a home with the Tigers.
“[Aaric] Murray is really a good player, we obviously saw that first hand a couple of years ago playing against him. He’s multi-talented. He can shoot it, he’s got good inside moves, he runs the floor well,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “He really doesn’t lack anything [skill sets] at the game. A big challenge for us.”
Murray is averaging 22.9 points-per-game and 6.9 rebounds-per-game. Both lead the team. He’s also playing a team high 33.1 minutes-per-game.
He takes 37 percent of his teams available shots when he’s on the court, that’s the eighth highest percentage of shots in the entire country.
With Murray playing in his hometown –given all the controversy surrounding his career—one would expect him to come out aggressive and look to carry his team and send a message to the Owls.
Coach Dunphy noted that Anthony Lee will have a lot of responsibility in slowing Murray but also maintaining his offensive output.
“He’s got to contain Murray as much as he can. We will certainly give him some help but he’s got to contain him. A tall task, and he’s got to do his thing on the offensive end, so if he can continue to get us double-doubles, that would be great for us,” Dunphy said.
Joining Murray on the block is junior forward Jose Rodriguez. He hasn’t been quite as good as Murray, but he’s no slouch.
Rodriguez is averaging 14.9 points-per-game, along with 6.7 rebounds-per-contest. He’s also shooting 28.7 percent from three-point-range (12-31) so he can step outside and knockdown shots if not guarded.
In the backcourt, Ray Penn Jr is the guy to keep an eye on. The senior point guard is shooting 41.5 percent from three (22-53) and averages 12.7 points-per-contest. He also leads the team in assists (5 per-game).
With Murray, Penn Jr and Rodrigues leading the way, the Tigers have been a solid offensive team all season. Where they really struggle is on the defensive end.
Their defense is giving up 110.3 points-per-100 possessions. That’s outside of the top-300 in college basketball.
They rarely force turnovers (turnover percentage of 15 percent) and give up far too many offensive rebounds (38.8 percent of missed shots).
They’re also giving teams some easy, open looks from three-point-range. Teams are making 39.9 percent of their looks from downtown against the Tigers.
Temple should be able to exploit this weak defense.
Keys to the Game
1) Avoid Foul Trouble: As noted above the Tigers have two very good forwards. Both love to attack the basket. The Tigers team as a whole looks to get to the rim and get to the foul line in the process.
Texas Southern scores 28 percent of their points from the free throw line, that’s good for 24th in all of college basketball.
The Owls don’t have a lot of depth so getting in to foul trouble will not only give the Tigers some easy points, but will limit what the Owls are able to do on both ends of the court, especially if the Temple bigs –specifically Lee—get in foul trouble.
2) Avoid Letdown: It has been over 11 days since the Owls last game, a heartbreaking lose to the Texas Longhorns down at the Wells Fargo Center. With all that time off the Owls will certainly be rested.
They needed the break to get some guys healthy and give the legs of Will Cummings, Dalton Pepper, among others a nice rest with all the minutes they have played.
But will they be rusty?
It’s very common for teams to come out flat after such a long break in the middle of the season, and there won’t be a lot of energy in the building with students on break.
The Owls don’t want to let an inferior opponent hang around, but a lackadaisical start would do just that. It’s important for Temple to come out active defensively and jump right on the Tigers.
3) Control the Pace: Texas Southern is not a good defensive team and they don’t force many turnovers defensively. The Owls are very good at protecting the ball (14.6 turnover percentage, 21st best in the country).
Temple should be able to dictate the pace of the game. Whoever dictates their pace usually wins.
Temple owns an above average half-court defense. If they can keep the Tigers in the half-court and make them run offense, the Owls size and athleticism will wear the opposition down.
Josh Brown’s role
Freshman Josh Brown –like most freshman at the Division One level—has had an up and down ride in his first season. Brown has played a major role for the Owls off the bench, serving as the backup point guard to Cummings.
There are even times when Dunphy plays Brown on the court at the same time as Cummings, allowing the upperclassman to focus on scoring the ball more as a two-guard. Dunphy wants Brown to continue to develop as a passer, and focus his efforts on the defensive end.
Brown has the tools to become one of the better perimeter defenders in all of college basketball with his blend of quickness and athleticism.
“His number one priority is on the defensive end. He needs to really stop the penetration so there’s no drive-and-kick for easy threes. Whatever he gives us points-wise is a bonus, but I’d like to see his assists be two-and-a half or three to one [assist to turnover-ratio] and do a really good job on the defensive end,” Dunphy said. “I think he could really concentrate on the rebounding part too. He’s long enough and tough enough to put up some good rebounding numbers.”