Cardinals and Owls tangle in AAC action

Philadelphia, PA ( - Two teams at opposite ends of the American Athletic Conference standings get together in the City of Brotherly Love on Valentine's Day, as the 13th-ranked Louisville Cardinals pay a visit to the Temple Owls.

The game was originally scheduled for Thursday, but was moved due to inclement weather.

Louisville comes in sporting an impressive 19-4 overall record, and the team is 8-2 in conference, just off the pace set by first-place Cincinnati (22-3, 11-1 AAC). The Cardinals have two in a row and six of their last seven, the lone setback in that span coming against the Bearcats at home on Jan. 30. UofL is 6-1 in true road games this season, and has won four straight away from home.

Temple has had an absolutely dreadful season, going just 6-16 overall and 1-9 in AAC action. The Owls dropped an 88-74 decision at Houston last Sunday, handing them their third straight setback, and their 10th loss in the last 11 games. Temple has won only two of its nine home games, and this bout begins a stretch of five straight the team will play against current members of the Top-25.

Temple has won the last four meetings with Louisville to claim a 4-1 series advantage, and the teams are scheduled to meet one more time, on the Cardinals' home floor two weeks from today.

With a record as favorable as Louisville's, it's not surprising to see the team excelling at both ends of the court. The Cardinals are shooting 47.6 percent from the field, which includes a 37.3 percent showing from 3-point range, all of which results in 82.3 ppg. Defensively, foes are netting just 62.4 ppg in hitting only 39.7 percent of their total shots and 30.4 percent of their long-range launches. The Cards boast four double-digit scorers, with Russ Smith clearly the team's top performer. The senior guard is averaging 18.3 points (second-best in the conference) and 4.7 assists per game (third), all while knocking down nearly 40 percent of his 3-point tries (.397). He is also first on the club in steals with 41, but has a team-high 71 turnovers as well. Montrezl Harrell (12.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg) mans the paint for a UofL squad that goads the opposition into a whopping 17.3 turnovers per outing.

Louisville's last encounter also came against Houston, but the Cardinals were the ones who came out on top as they shot 55.6 percent from the field, draining 7-of-17 3-point attempts along the way. Smith paced the unit with 17 points and six helpers, while Harrell and Luke Hancock added 15 points apiece, and Chris Jones finished with 14 before fouling out. The Cougars were outscored at the free-throw line (20-13), and committed 14 turnovers off which the Cards scored 24 points.

Despite their woes, Temple is presently the only team in the nation boasting four players that average at least 14 ppg. Dalton Pepper (17.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.4 apg) leads the way and ranks fourth in the conference, while logging more than 37 minutes per contest. He heads the AAC in 3-pointers per game (2.8). Backcourt mate Quenton DeCosey (15.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.2 apg), as well as forwards Will Cummings (16.4 ppg, 4.4 apg) and Anthony Lee (14.0 ppg, 9.2 rpg) have all performed well at the offensive end for coach Fran Dunphy, but the Owls have really come up small at the defensive end, as foes are generating 77.8 ppg, which ranks as the worst yield in the AAC.

Pepper hit for 17 points, as all five starters reached double figures, but those efforts went for naught once again as the Owls dropped a 14-point decision at Houston last weekend. Devontae Watson logged a double-double consisting of 11 points and 11 rebounds, but Temple went just 3-of-13 from beyond the arc, while the Cougars made good on 54 percent of their total shots, which included 11 treys.