Temple’s struggles since Juan Fernandez was hurt are a good indicator of how significant a role he played in the team’s success. His effort against Rhode Island last month also provided some good evidence.
In their first game in a week, the 21st-ranked Owls desperately need Fernandez on the court as they try to avoid falling further down the Atlantic 10 standings in a matchup with the Rams on Saturday.
This is Temple’s first game since losing 71-54 at Richmond last Saturday. The Spiders then beat Rhode Island (19-4, 7-3) four days later, and are in a three-way tie atop the A-10, one-half game ahead of the Owls (19-5, 7-2) and one ahead of the Rams.
Temple has to hope a long stretch between games has helped it rest up for its last seven regular-season contests. Fernandez’s status is of particular concern.
He was held out against Richmond due to lingering effects after suffering a head injury in a 62-45 win over Fordham on Jan. 23. Fernandez wasn’t sharp over his next three games, averaging 4.0 points and shooting 29.4 percent, so team doctors thought it would be best to give him time to rest.
Fernandez is averaging 12.3 points and is the team’s best 3-point shooter, making 43.6 percent of his attempts. The Owls are 2-2 since he was hurt, shooting under 35 percent twice.
“We need him if we are to play our best basketball,” coach Fran Dunphy said.
Fernandez’s clutch performance helped Temple beat Rhode Island 68-64 in overtime Jan. 10. He had 18 points, including a key 3-pointer in overtime that gave the Owls a 65-61 lead with 28 seconds left.
That was the only OT game Temple has played this season.
Lavoy Allen had 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Owls in that contest. He’s coming off another big game, posting 17 points and a career-high 19 rebounds versus Richmond.
Allen—one of three A-10 players averaging a double-double—was one of the Owls’ few bright spots against the Spiders.
Temple was held to 32.1 percent shooting. Owls guard Ryan Brooks, averaging a team-high 15.0 points, was limited to two on 1-of-8 shooting.
It was also a subpar defensive game for Temple, which allowed a team to reach 70 points for the fifth time. The Owls rank sixth in the country in scoring defense, giving up 57.6 points per contest.
Temple now returns home, where it has won five straight and 10 of 11. The only loss was to No. 1 Kansas, 84-52 on Jan. 2.
Rhode Island had won four straight before falling to Richmond, but the Rams took solace in knowing they played tough against one of the conference’s top teams.
“It’s always encouraging to know that when we’re playing well, we can play with anybody,” Rhode Island center Will Martell said, “but … we can’t go into offensive and defensive modes where we lose our discipline, we lose our focus.”
Rams leading scorer Keith Cothran had a potentially game-winning shot rattle out down the stretch. The senior guard is averaging 15.6 points, but finished with 11 on 4-of-14 shooting.
Rhode Island has struggled offensively after averaging 91.5 points in its previous two games. The Rams shot 36.9 percent last month versus the Owls, who lead the series 52-15.
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