Game 18: Temple — The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Good Bad & Ugly
Penn was not able to close out the final Big 5 matchup in the way it had hoped in a 76-69 loss to Temple. The Quakers (3-15) jumped to an early lead, which got up to nine points in the second half at the Liacouras Center. But midway through the frame, the Owls went on a 27-12 run, allowing them to take the lead and clinch the victory.

THE GOOD: PLP. Sophomore guard Patrick Lucas-Perry was on fire for the Quakers Wednesday night. When he was on the court, he made himself noticed. Going 3-for-3 from beyond the arc during the first half in addition to netting three free-throws for 12 first-half points. For his 27 minutes on the night, he went 4-for-5, making another trey in the second. Temple coach Fran Dunphy was disappointed that the Owls had trouble containing Penn's "best jump shooter."

THE BAD: Coverage on Wyatt late in the second. Looking at Khalif Wyatt's five first-half points, you might wonder why Penn was unable to pull away with the win on such tight coverage of Temple's main man. But midway through the second, the senior forward exploded, and the Quakers couldn't answer as he notched 21 second-half points for a total of 26. After sinking a three-pointer five minutes into the frame, the Red and Blue just could not stop him, especially after he scored nine straight points for the Owls in less than two minutes midway through the half.

THE UGLY: 27-12 second-half Temple run. The Quakers just couldn't keep up with the Owls after the shift in Wyatt's game and a set of threes from graduate student guard T.J. DiLeo in addition to a ten-point second-half performance from sophomore forward Anthony Lee completely turned the tide of the game. The Red and Blue got up to a nine-point lead, but just started to run out of exhaust on the defensive end, as the Owls took the lead and ultimately the 'W'.

Behind Enemy Lines: Temple’s Tonya Cardoza

Courtesy of atlantic10.com

—Courtesy of atlantic10.com

Penn will play its final Big 5 opponent in its last non-conference game of the season against Temple on Wednesday. Penn (7-7, 0-1 Ivy) will be looking for its first win against Temple (7-10) since 2003. For this edition of Behind Enemy Lines, I spoke with Owls' head coach Tonya Cardoza about notching her 100th win in less than five years and the youth of her 2012-2013 squad.

This season, you reached a landmark, you got your 100th win. What does that mean to you?

Cardoza: It means a lot. Obviously every game that you go into you want to win and the fact that I’ve been able to do it in four and a half years, it’s just a credit to the kids that I’ve coached and the staff that I’ve had surrounding me. It feels good to get that out of the way. The last month or so, knowing that we were so close, it was finally good to  get that one win. It means a lot because it’s a milestone a lot of people are not able to reach and the fact that I’ve been able to do it, like I said, in four and a half years I’m happy with that.

You’ve obviously had a very successful couple of seasons at Temple and I know this season is a little different. You have a very young team. It’s the second most inexperienced in Division I. How has that affected your level of play and goals for the season?

Cardoza: Obviously our goals have to change and as we came into the season our expectation was to still do the same things we’ve done in the past and we haven’t been able to do that. We haven’t reached the same level of success up to this point but everyday, we are young, and everyday we have to get better because we’re also building for the future. We haven’t had a lot of wins but everyday in practice we’re trying to get better with the hopes that it carries over down the stretch and that we’re able to make a run for it.

But it’s been something different, something that obviously none of us have been used to because we haven’t lost many games here so we’re not going to be accustomed to losing as well. We know that we are young, and we do have a lot of inexperience but sometimes it’s not about inexperience it’s just about what effort you give and I think there’s sometimes that we’ve lost games this year, not because we were young, just because we didn’t do little things.

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Palestra plays host to A10- ACC Matchup

Prior to Penn’s Saturday night showdown with St. Joe’s — where we hear tickets are almost sold out — the Palestra will play host to a Big Five Basketball matinee. Fran Dunphy will return for a homecoming of sorts, as his Owls take on Maryland Saturday morning.

Those tracking Dunphy will remember Temple’s 78-73 victory over then-No. 3 Duke to kick off the New Year. The upset marked the Owls' fourth-straight year with a win over a top-ten opponent and was Temple’s first over Duke since January 25, 1996 — when Dunphy was still wearing the Red and the Blue.

Since then Temple has dropped two of its last four, while Maryland — under the leadership of first-year coach Mark Turgeon — will enter having won 10 of its last 12 games though the Terps lost to Florida State Tuesday. Each team has identical 12-5 records.

Fortunately for Temple fans, Dunphy has a little bit of Palestra magic on his side. He has a career record of 164-53 (a .756 winning percentage).

Keep an eye on the backcourt battle between Maryland guard Terrell Stoglin, who is coming off a 27-point performance Tuesday and Temple guard Ramon Moore, who has hit double digits ten games in a row.

I’ll be courtside all morning to cover the action, which kicks off at 11 am.

Mano-A-Mano: Penn’s overtime failures

It's been just two games, but we already have plenty of hoops to talk about. After a 14-point season-opening win vs. UMBC, Penn went wire-to-wire with Temple at the Palestra on Monday night, eventually falling in overtime. Fans who followed the team last year can relate to my esteemed colleague Brian Kotloff's column (written in beautiful prose) about how, for yet another time, the Quakers battled a superior team talent-wise, but came up just short in the upset. Penn was just 1-4 in overtime games a year ago, including a brutal stretch of three straight OT losses to Harvard, Princeton, and Cornell — which begs the question ... 

Question: How do you explain Penn's failures in OTs dating back to last year?

Brian Kotloff:  There are always a handful of physical and/or psychological factors in struggles like the ones Penn has endured. To start, you need to factor in that in many of these games, Penn has been not only been the underdog, but has had to rally back from deep holes. So when the game evens back up in OT, the team with more energy and more talent -- the Quakers' opponent -- comes out on top. That explains the OT losses at La Salle, vs. Harvard and at Princeton last year, and now vs. Temple this year. Remember, they still beat Brown in OT in February.

I think the common thread through the losses is that each game could have been the signature win that propelled the program back to an elite level, and each time the team let victory slip through its grasp. When they beat Cornell in 2010, all the pressure was off -- they were 3-15 entering that game. A win at La Salle would have been Penn's first Big 5 win in four years (it came later over St. Joe's), while wins over Harvard and/or Princeton would have vaulted Penn into Ivy League contention. Last night, the Quakers couldn't close out what would have been their most impressive win in years. Of course I can't know what's running through players' heads, but maybe each time they thought, 'Wow, here's that impact win we've been waiting for,' and the moment overwhelmed them. That would explain why each opportunity was lost with simple miscues —missed layups, boneheaded decisions, turnovers, etc. — that make each extremely frustrating.

Kevin Esteves: I think you also have to factor in what a slim margin for error there has been in these OT games. As you said, the Harvard and Princeton losses were marked by early deficits. You have to play pretty flawless basketball over an extended period of time just to close that kind of gap, and then you still have to continue that play through overtime. That's just a really hard thing to do, so I would chalk those losses last year more to inconsistent play to start the game, which stacked the odds against them. (And the Cornell OT loss was just a case of a team that was mentally and physically drained).

Against this Temple team, there's also a slim margin just because of how good the Owls are. It really does have to be a 40 (or 45) minute stretch of really solid basketball. Penn did that Monday night, but I think execution down the stretch was a little spotty. I don't necessarily blame them for riding Rosen's hot hand — at that time, with the way he was playing, that gave them the best chance to win. But, as we've noted, other guys will have to step up so that the late-game offense is less predictable.

BK: And that last point is crucial when you look at trying to overcome this problem. The slim margin for error you mentioned is even slimmer when Penn's secondary scorers aren't contributing at their typical level. Teams with superior size and athleticism can then focus on Rosen defensively, and Penn has no shot winning a 1-on-5 battle against an elite team. Going forward against the likes of Pitt, Villanova, UCLA and Duke (and of course into the Ivy season), Tyler Bernardini and Miles Cartwright will be critical in providing scoring on the wing to keep defenses honest.

From a mental standpoint, the Quakers need to somehow, someway muster the same intensity they took into the Temple game when they play teams like Rider, Robert Morris and James Madison. This team has performed best when it feels slighted as an underdog, when the players need to rally around and believe in each other most. You can't re-create or feign that feeling in games against more evenly matched, lower-profile teams, but you can bring similar focus and desire. If the players don't hang their heads after Monday's crushing loss, it will turn out to be a positive going forward. After all, the Quakers played fantastic basketball over large stretches of each of these OT losses.

KE: Absolutely, this team has definitely showed it has some fight in it. And I do believe that Tyler and Miles will each have a handful of big games this year. That said, the Quakers also need something beyond that perimeter scoring, especially in late-game situations. They need that inside-outside game to be able to finish off teams in OT or to climb back into games when the going's getting rough. Some nights the shots don't fall, so you need to be able to dump it down to Fran Dougherty to open things up. If he can continue to polish his post moves, he will be hugely important whenever Penn needs to stop the bleeding, draw a foul, or just mix things up. Balance is key.

Temple vs. Penn hoops at the Palestra

The gift of Big 5 basketball has come early this season -- the earliest it's ever come, in fact. Tonight, the Quakers host Temple in the Owls' season opener at the Palestra. This marks the third meeting between longtime Penn coach Fran Dunphy and perhaps the best player he ever coached, Jerome Allen. Tonight, Allen looks for his first win against Dunphy, as his team tries to build on a solid season-opening win at UMBC. Follow the live blog below for game updates and analysis:

Fran Dunphy going for 400th career win

Another milestone alert: Legendary Penn coach and current Temple headman Fran Dunphy is going for his 400th career win tonight against No. 9 Georgetown here in Philadelphia.

Dunphy racked up 310 of his 399 wins here at Penn between 1989 and 2006, when he won 10 Ivy titles. The Inquirer's Keith Pompey wrote a great story previewing the game tonight and profiling Dunphy, so be sure to read. But spoiler alert, the coach is a bit shy:

"If you ask me about [former Penn star turned Quakers coach] Jerome Allen or [Temple swingman] Scootie Randall or any other things, I'm happy to talk about that," Dunphy says. "Talking about me, I don't find it that exciting."