Temple. Maryland. The Palestra. ESPNU. An 11 a.m. start.
Add that together and tomorrow’s game between the Owls (12-5, 2-2 Atlantic 10) and the Terrapins (12-5, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) has all the makings for a unique and memorable affair.
It didn’t always look that way, however, as the Terrapins struggled out of the gate, going 3-3 in the month of November. Since Dec. 1, Maryland is 9-2, thanks in large part to the play of recently reinstated center Alex Len. Len was suspended for the first ten games of the season due to problems with the NCAA’s Amateurism guidelines.
Through seven games, the redshirt freshman from the Ukraine leads the team in rebounding (6.9) and blocks (2.3). Len is fourth on the team in scoring with 8.9 points per game and is connecting on just under 65 percent of his shots from the field.
At 7-1, 225 pounds, Len would be a tough assignment for Micheal Eric, let alone Anthony Lee and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson. The word going around was that Eric was going to be back for Wednesday night’s victory over La Salle but then it was announced by Owls radio voice Harry Donahue on the pregame show that Eric probably wouldn’t be back in time for the Maryland game.
To add to the intrigue, CSNPhilly’s Reuben Frank wrote yesterday that the return of Eric was imminent and that he was set to be evaluated by doctor’s before making a final call. At this point Temple is worse than NHL teams at providing accurate information when it comes to player injuries. The original release from the athletic department said six weeks (we’re now in week eight). And don’t even get me started with the Scootie Randall injury…
But I digress, having Eric in the lineup would be huge in countering Len’s impact on the game. It would be foolish to expect the 6-11 Eric to come back and play 20-25 minutes right off the bat but if he can come off the bench to spell Anthony Lee for a few minutes here and there then I, along with most other Temple fans, will be much more confident heading into the game.
If that does not happen then the Owls will continue to piecemeal it, a strategy that, while ugly, has been wildly successful to this point. Most outsiders would call for the Owls to play a zone defense but we’ve learned this season that they are much more willing to play straight up and let the chips fall where they may.
Objective number two for Temple will be stopping sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin, the ACC’s leading scorer at 21.6 points per game. Where Stoglin goes, Maryland follows. He is currently fourth in the country in percentage of shots taken at 37.4. Stoglin is also 51st in the country at fouls drawn per 40 minutes at 6.4.
He is able to score the ball from everywhere on the court as he shoots 43 percent from two, 41 percent from three and 78 percent from the foul line. At 6-1, Stoglin is the type of small guard that has given Temple’s bigger guards some trouble but that is a two-way street as Ramone Moore, Juan Fernandez and Khalif Wyatt should all be able to exploit their size if they can isolate him on offense as his defense is suspect at best.
Beyond those two, Maryland’s offense is a hodgepodge assembly of role players and compliment pieces. Senior guard Sean Mosley is the team’s second leading scorer (10.4) and rebounder (5.0) but not the type of player that is capable of taking over a game.
Junior forward James Padgett is third on the team in scoring at 9.2 points per game and is also number one in the country in offensive rebounding percentage (21.1). Again, a nice player but not someone who is going to do major damage.
Sophomore Pe’Shon Howard has yet to fully acclimate himself to Mark Turgeon’s system after missing the first nine games of the season with an injury. The 6-4 guard plays 31.4 minutes per game but only averages 5.5 points per game. He is the teams leading distributor with 4.3 dimes per game but, much like Padgett and Mosley, Howard isn’t someone who is going to kill you.
The Owls lead the all-time series 5-4 and have won the last two meetings, 91-85 at the Liacouras Center in 2006 and 64-61 last year at the Verizon Center in Washing, D.C.. Although the Terrapins have some nice players, Temple should win this game and improve to 2-0 against the ACC this season.
KenPom is predicting an 80-66 triumph and I have to say that I am inclined to agree as I just don’t think Maryland has what it takes to stop Temple’s guards. It is a game that the Owls need to have as they have a tough A10 two-step planned next week with a roadtrip to Charlotte before hosting Saint Joe’s next Saturday.
Just a programming note: There probably won’t be a game recap until sometime tomorrow night…just a heads up to those who hang out on the site and constantly refresh it, waiting for my next drop of Temple sports knowledge.