Scouting the Owls (21-5): Temple’s outstanding back court of Khalif Wyatt, Juan Fernandez, and Ramone Moore have sparked the Owls recent success. Moore has emerged as a legitimate contender for Big 5 player of the year averaging over 18 points a contest, while also contributing 3.3 assists—often from the two guard position. Wyatt would be the primary scorer on most teams; however, the Owls aren’t most teams. The Norristown High grad averages 17 points a game while shooting a scorching 48% from the field. Although only the third scoring option in this loaded back court, Juan Fernandez has been a bit of a disappointment in my eyes. In his senior campaign he is averaging slightly fewer points a game than his sophomore and junior years. He certainly contributes (11.8 ppg, 3.8 apg), but it seems his growth really stopped after his second season on Broad Street.
Over the past weeks Temple has solidified an already solid tournament resume that included non-conference wins against Duke, Maryland, and Wichita State. According to Statsheet.com Temple currently has the 16th best RPI.
Numbers certainly favor Fran Dunphy’s team in tonight’s game: since coming to Temple he is 10-2 against his alma mater. Any discussion of Temple begins with Fran and his commitment to defense. They give up an average of 68.5 points per game. The return of Micheal Eric has provided a substantial boost. The 6’11” senior has given a solid 7.3 points and 7.8 rebounds a game, but perhaps his biggest contribution is his large frame taking up space and redirecting shots (1.8 blocks).
Most recently La Salle completed a season sweep over also resurgent UMass on Saturday up in Amherst. A hard fought, 72-71 victory was made possible due to an incredible first half by senior guard Earl Pettis. The Neumann-Goretti product had 5 first half trey’s and finished the game with 18 points.
La Salle goes as Ramon Galloway goes. It is no coincidence that the Explorers’ recent struggles have come along side some of Galloway’s worst games for the Blue and Gold. This should not be taken to be critical of Galloway—he recently lost a member of his family before the loss to St. Joe’s. Since then Galloway has been forcing the issue rather than letting the game come to him. For the season Galloway leads the Explorers in scoring with 14.7 a game, while contributing almost 5 rebounds a game and 3.2 assists. Perhaps his greatest asset is his ability (and desire) to play intense man to man defense, often times for the full length of the court.
La Salle favors a four guard lineup, this season with freshman Jerrell Wright in the middle. Wright is the team’s leading rebounder (6.0 rpg) and has shown substantial development throughout his first collegiate season. Wright will be tasked with manning up against Eric. It will be crucial for him to stay out of foul trouble because something the Explorers lack is depth in the front court.
My Input: This game will be a battle—almost all Big 5 games are regardless of the teams involved records and ability. The first time these two squads met La Salle hung around for the entire game, fighting back from being down double digits before the Owls finally put them away. I expect more of the same from this game. I see this as a bit of a tossup because I anticipate the very cozie confines of the Tom Gola Arena to be loud and hostile. In a close game Temple’s veteran back court and Dunphy’s superior coaching give Temple the slight edge
Temple 70 La Salle 68
Tipoff is set for tonight at 7:00 at the Tom Gola Arena. The game can be heard on WNTP 990.