Arguably the toughest game of the Lions’ non-conference schedule is the road trip to the Liacouras Center to face the Temple Owls today. The game tips off at 4 PM and will not be on television. You’ll have to try to catch the game on the radio or…GO! Like myself, who will be traveling with 79 others students courtesy of another sweet deal by the Athletic Department (12 bucks for game ticket and 2 way bus ticket).
This game is going to be tougher than UVA. Temple has played some very good teams so far and has fared pretty well. They’re 5-2 with close losses to upstart St. John’s and Georgetown. They have beaten Siena and Va Tech. So their experience so far against much stronger competition has to be considered an advantage over PSU. However, Penn St is coming off a huge confidence-boosting (did you see that smile on Battle’s face?) win on the road against an ACC opponent, so we’ll see.
Temple really D’s it up. An 87 adjusted efficiency against the schedule they have played so far is very impressive. They control their defensive glass and have let their opponents’ make just 22% of their 3’s. Their opponents’ 40.6% eFG% is 9th best in the country. On offense, Temple must still be finding their way without Dionte Christmas. The only good thing Temple does on offense is take care of the ball. Senior guard Ryan Brooks is their leading scorer at 13.6 PPG, but he has gotten off to a slow start behind the arc. After hitting 41% of his 3’s last year, Brooks has only made 7 of 32 attempts this year. He scored 15 points against the Nittany Lions last year in Temple’s road win.
Temple has typically gone 8 deep in the early going of this year. Lavoy Allen is also back for the Owls. He logged 11 points and 10 rebounds in last year’s contest. Both Brooks and Allen are starters along with 6-3 G Luis Guzman and 6-4 G Juan Fernandez. 6-11 C Michael Eric started the first 4 games, but sprained his MCL. He missed the St. John’s and Va Tech games, but he returned to play only 3 minutes against Western Michigan, Temple’s last game. I’m not sure what his status is for today’s contest, but I doubt he starts. 6-9 JR Craig Williams has replaced him as a starter while he’s been out. 6-4 G Ramone Moore and 6’6 F freshman Rahlir Jefferson round out the rotation. Temple isn’t particularly big, outside of Eric, who’s banged up. But they rebound well and score 62% of their points inside the arc (14th most in the country).
I just really don’t feel good about PSU’s chances in this matchup. I think there’s a lot of potential for last year’s grind-it-out, ugly affair. If you recall last year’s loss, Stanley Pringle sprained his ankle 7 minutes into the game and PSU’s offense went to complete shit. This just feels like a time where PSU is going to look horrible, a la the Charleston Classic.
However, I don’t think we’ve ever come close to scratching the surface of this team’s potential. I don’t think there will ever be any sort of consistent inside threat from Jones, but Brooks and Edwards have shown flashes of being dominant while posting up. Frazier continues to look more and more comfortable with Battle while they’re on the floor at the same time. Tim really set Talor up well all night in the second half of the UVA game. I also believe Babb is too good of a shooter to keep shooting at the low clip he is now (30.8%).
So this is an interesting contest that could go both ways. Temple’s defensive numbers are scary, and I’ve seen PSU look atrocious too many times in these half-court dogfights to really feel good about this game. But I’m really hoping PSU builds off their strong defensive effort against UVA. You can tell it was something DeChellis had been harping on, especially after the pitiful performance against Sacred Heart. There’s nothing too intimidating about Temple’s offense or their lineup. Penn State has the athleticism to lock these guys down…but will they be able to jumpstart the O?
PREDICTION: Temple 58 Penn State 53. If Talor Battle gets that mojo going, though, he’s gonna make me look like a fool.
Be sure to check out this game’s perspective from the Enemy’s blog, The Owl’s Nest.