By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Temple Owls face another difficult challenge in American Athletic Conference action on Thursday night as they welcome the defending national champions, #13 Louisville, to town.
The Owls are coming off a couple of losses down in Texas. Last Thursday they lost at #23 SMU, 75-52, and then on Sunday they fell at Houston, 88-74. Against the Cougars, the Owls trailed at one point by 21 points before firing back to pull to within five points down the stretch. However, a late 16-6 Houston run allowed them to grab the victory.
Those two losses dropped the Owls to 6-16 on the season (1-9 in the AAC). But despite the lack of wins, head coach Fran Dunphy says they continue to battle.
“There are times that we lose our focus and we don’t appreciate each possession for what it’s worth and sometimes games change on a possession,” Dunphy tells KYW Newsradio. “And I think we have to value each and every one of them. But I think, for the most part, each and every day we’ve got the mantra of, ‘Today is the most important day of our lives and let’s get better at it.’ And I think, for the most part, they have held that thought in their minds, foremost.”
#13 Louisville brings a 19-4 record into Thursday’s game (8-2 in the AAC). Last time out on February 5th, they beat that same Houston team, 77-62.
‘Just really good at everything they do,” Dunphy says of the Cardinals. “There’s a reason why they were national champions last year. They’ve got really good basketball players and a Hall of Fame coach (Rick Pitino) who has done a wonderful, wonderful job, wherever he has been. It’s no secret. But they are efficient on offense and they make it difficult to score at the other end. They give you that pressure and they create almost 20 points a game off turnovers. So you really have to be very careful with the ball, and when you’re opportunities present themselves, you have to finish and then at the other end you have to be as good as you can be.”
Louisville is led by senior guard Russ Smith who is pouring in 18.3 points a game, while shooting 40% from three.
Here’s an interesting stat for the Owls. They are the only team in Division I basketball right now with four players averaging 14 or more points a game (Dalton Pepper – 17.5, Will Cummings – 16.4, Quenton DeCosey – 15.2 and Anthony Lee – 14.0).
This will be the first meeting for these two teams since the second round of the 2002 NIT, when Temple beat the Cardinals, 65-62.
Thursday night’s game will tip-off at the Liacouras Center at 7:00pm.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.