UConn will look to build upon their one-game win streak (it’s been a tough season) and move up in the American Athletic Conference standings when they face Temple in Philadelphia tonight.
The Owls have struggled to a 10-10 record (2-6 conference) so far this season, with methods very similar to what we’ve seen from the Huskies—their wins are granted by strong defensive play, their offense has been known to stall at times, they don’t shoot or pass very well, and they play at a pretty slow tempo. Sounds familiar, right?
Interestingly enough, Temple’s year started off great, at least based on their schedule. The Owls beat Auburn and Clemson (both top 25 teams) in the opening week of the season, but they’ve gone on losing stretches too, with their lengthiest streak being a five-game skid. They have bad losses to La Salle and George Washington in non-conference play.
As mentioned earlier, Temple is not a strong offensive team, shooting only 46.4 percent from inside the arc and 33.2 percent from three. Both of those marks are better than UConn’s of course, but those overall percentages are substantially higher than their rates in conference play. The Owls have played Cincinnati twice already, but that alone isn’t enough to depress those statistics by that much.
The Owls are led by a trio of tall perimeter scorers. Quinton Rose is their most consistent shooter, leading the team in points with 14.1 per game, but has some turnover issues. Levan Alston, Jr. (nicknamed “Shizz,” unlike his father, who played on tournament Temple teams in the mid-90s) has struggled in conference play so far, averaging fewer points than field goal attempts. Obi Enechionyia is likely their best player, as his offensive game has few gaps, while providing solid defense. Nate Pierre-Louis is their sixth man, and he must be mentioned; while he won’t score many points, he’s a solid contributor for the team off the bench.
Temple doesn’t have many areas where they’re truly strong, but their perimeter defense must be mentioned as an area of expertise. They’ve done a good job taking away open threes from opposing backcourts, and they can create turnovers given the right opportunities. They’re also a solid offensive rebounding team, and second chances are what allow their offense to not fall too far behind.
This is still a solid matchup for the Huskies, even without Terry Larrier, who will miss tonight’s contest. UConn’s defense will likely be giving up height around the perimeter, but Temple’s cold streak coupled with good defense from the Huskies will create exploitable situations. If the defense remains strong, Fran Dunphy’s offense can get frustrated and sputter out. The Owls scored only 39 points in a loss to Central Florida earlier in January.
Offensively, Kevin Ollie’s gameplan should center around inside looks. Jalen Adams and Christian Vital can penetrate with the ball in their hands, and with the emergence of Josh Carlton, they can find looks for teammates in the paint too. Off-ball looks from three will be important too; a drive-and-dish play might be the best way to keep the Owls defense honest without taking shots that could be easily contested.
With UConn finally trending upward again, and Temple struggling as of late, this will be one of the Huskies’ best opportunities to move up in the AAC standings. If they can play like they did against Southern Methodist (and not like they did against Memphis), they can take a win from Temple tonight.