Despite coming off its first loss in more than a month, Temple is on the verge of clinching the top seed for the Atlantic 10 tournament. The team’s high-scoring backcourt getting untracked before it begins might be more important.
Returning home for Senior Night may help that cause - and in recovering from a loss to a rival - as the 23rd-ranked Owls try capture at least a share of the regular-season conference title against Massachusetts on Wednesday night.
Temple (22-6, 11-3) last claimed a piece of the A-10 championship in 2010 but hasn’t won it outright since 2000, something it would clinch with wins in this game and Saturday at Fordham.
Guards Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez, both among the top 35 scorers in Temple history, will be honored in their final home game Wednesday along with starting center Micheal Eric and little-used reserve Jake Godino.
Another subpar outing from Moore and Fernandez, however, proved costly Saturday as Temple had an 11-game winning streak snapped with an 82-72 road loss to Big 5 foe Saint Joseph’s.
“Human nature is you get their attention more after a loss than after a win,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “… We weren’t tough enough, we weren’t smart enough, we weren’t knowledgeable enough at who we are.”
Moore, leading the A-10 with 18.0 points per game, scored 15 but was 6 of 15 from the field. Fernandez had three points, about eight below his season average.
“We just have to bounce back,” said Moore, shooting 32.4 percent over the last three games while averaging 12.0 points.
He’s gone 1 for 5 from 3-point range in each of those games. Fernandez, 1 for 11 from the field in his last two contests, is among the conference leaders with 56 3-pointers but has not made more than one in six of the last seven games.
Even junior guard Khalif Wyatt had a quiet day Saturday with 11 points after averaging 20.9 in his first seven games this month.
Eric was one of the few bright spots, posting his second straight double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds, but Temple remains a team that relies on perimeter play.
The Owls rank among the national leaders in 3-point shooting at 40.5 percent. They’re 3-4 when not making at least 35.0 percent.
Temple has won 33 of 34 at home, and UMass (19-9, 8-6) has lost eight straight at the Liacouras Center since Jan. 27, 2001. The most recent meeting came in Amherst and went to overtime, with the Owls winning 73-67 on March 2 as Fernandez scored 19.
While Temple seeks the conference tournament’s top seed, the Minutemen would be happy with one of the first-round byes that go to the league’s top four finishers. They’re tied for sixth but within a game of fourth place.
UMass is looking to bounce back from its most lopsided loss, 76-43 at Dayton on Saturday. The Minutemen shot a season-worst 25.0 percent en route to their lowest-scoring performance in more than a decade.
“It wasn’t fun to watch, it wasn’t fun to play and it wasn’t UMass basketball,” coach Derek Kellogg said.
It was an anomaly for Kellogg’s team, which had been leading the conference with 76.4 points per game. Temple is the new leader at 75.6.
The Minutemen have lost three of four. Top scorer Chaz Williams was held to 11 points in each defeat, shooting 28.2 percent, and scored 29 in last Wednesday’s win over Xavier.