A heated league race and a tough defeat would usually be enough to get most Atlantic 10 teams motivated. Temple, playing in front of John Chaney and against a Philadelphia rival, will have plenty of extra incentive Saturday.
With the legendary coach to be honored at halftime along with former La Salle counterpart Speedy Morris, the 15th-ranked Owls look to bounce back from a deflating loss in a matchup with the Explorers.
Temple (17-4, 5-1) had a six-game winning streak snapped Wednesday night, losing 74-64 at Charlotte. That has created a logjam atop the A-10, putting the second-place Owls and 49ers one-half game behind Xavier for the league lead.
It appeared Temple might have an easy ride through conference play, winning 13 of its previous 14 overall and being the A-10’s only ranked team.
“This league is very competitive,” Owls guard Ryan Brooks said.
Despite the setback, Temple is in much better shape than many expected. The A-10 coaches picked the Owls to finish fifth, just behind intrastate rival La Salle (11-9, 3-3).
Temple, though, appears headed to its third straight NCAA tournament appearance under coach Fran Dunphy, a co-captain as a player with La Salle in the late 1960s. Dunphy took over after Chaney retired in 2006.
On Friday, Chaney was inducted into Philadelphia’s Big 5 Hall of Fame along with Morris and ex-Villanova coach Rollie Massimino. All three will be honored at halftime of this contest.
Morris won 238 games and made four NCAA tournament appearances with the Explorers before retiring in 2001. La Salle hasn’t been back to the NCAA tournament since Morris left.
Chaney had 741 wins and 17 NCAA tournament appearances, but could only get Temple to the NIT in his final seasons.
The Owls are 8-1 at home, with their only loss coming to then-No. 1 Kansas 84-52 on Jan. 2. Temple, however, must shore up its defense after of one of its worst performances of the season.
Only Kansas has scored more points against the Owls this season than Charlotte did. Temple is tied for sixth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 57.1 points a contest.
The Owls were without Lavoy Allen, one of their defensive standouts, for much of the second half versus the 49ers due to foul trouble. He still finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds in 22 minutes.
“Lavoy is such a rock for us inside, he runs the show for us defensively,” Dunphy said of Allen, the team leader with 33 blocks. “We need him much more.”
Brooks, who tops the Owls with 16.2 points per game, is averaging 6.7 points and shooting 37.5 percent from the field in six games against La Salle.
The Owls and Explorers each won a road game in last season’s series. Temple leads the all-time series 65-40.
Rodney Green’s 22 points helped La Salle end an eight-game road losing streak to the Owls with a 70-63 win Feb. 26 in the last meeting. Green is the league’s second-leading scorer this season at 18.8 points per game.
Green had 16 points Wednesday night, but it was Aaric Murray who keyed the Explorers’ fourth win in six games, 80-73 over Fordham.
The 6-foot-10 Murray had a career-high 24 points and blocked four shots, setting a single-season school record for blocks by a freshman with 54. Murray has averaged 18.8 points, 7.8 boards and 3.2 blocks over the last six games while shooting 11 of 18 from 3-point range.