Memphis, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - Facing its fourth consecutive ranked opponent, the Temple Owls fly into FedExForum for tonight's American Athletic Conference clash with the 22nd-ranked Memphis Tigers.
Despite what has been a horrid year for the Owls, they already have a win over one of their recent formidable foes, as they upset SMU in Philadelphia last weekend. They tried to make it two in a row at home against Connecticut on Thursday, but the Huskies prevailed in a 68-55 final. Temple is 7-18 on the season, and just 2-11 in conference. Additionally, the Owls are 2-7 in road games. Another ranked opponent awaits, as TU will play Louisville on Thursday.
Memphis too dropped a recent decision to UConn, but bounced back to take down Rutgers on the road two nights ago, 64-59. It was the fourth victory in the last five games for the Tigers, who improved to 20-6 overall and 9-4 in conference. Memphis is an impressive 12-2 at FedExForum this season, winning its last six in front of the hometown faithful.
The all-time series between these new conference rivals sits at 6-5 in favor of Memphis, and the teams have already met this season when the Tigers posted a 10-point win (79-69) in Philly back on Jan. 11. All told, Memphis has won the last three encounters.
Temple's strength is on offense, as it features four double-digit scorers, led by Dalton Pepper and his 17.1 ppg. Will Cummings (15.9 ppg, 4.3 apg), Quenton DeCosey (14.9 ppg) and Anthony Lee (13.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg) have all made significant contributions for the Owls this season, as they put up 73 ppg in hitting 42.7 percent of their field goal attempts, which includes a 34.4 percent showing from 3-point range. The team's defensive approach has been lax all season, with foes averaging 77 ppg behind typical shooting efforts of .466 overall and .349 from beyond the arc.
In the recent loss to UConn, DeCosey scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while three others finished in double digits as well, but the efforts were wasted as the Huskies prevailed rather easily. The Owls shot just 33.9 percent from the floor, missing the mark on 13 of their 18 3-point attempts. They were also guilty of 16 turnovers, while allowing the visitors to connect on 44.9 percent of their total shots, despite a dismal 3-point shooting effort as well (2-of-13). A 22-12 deficit in points from the foul line also played an integral role in the setback for Temple.
Memphis holds a near double-digit edge in scoring on its opponents this season, netting 79.1 ppg while allowing 69.4 ppg. The Tigers boast three double-digit scorers, led by Joe Jackson and his 14.8 ppg, while Shaq Goodwin (12.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and Michael Dixon, Jr. (11.5 ppg) do their best in support. An unselfish player, Jackson (120 assists) also gets his teammates involved as much as possible. As a team, Memphis is hitting its shots at a 48.3 percent clip, while its strength on defense lies in its ability to limit looks from the perimeter (.297). The Tigers also goad the opposition into more than 15 turnovers per outing.
Dixon, Jr. scored 15 points, pacing four players in double figures as Memphis slipped past Rutgers on Thursday night. The Tigers weren't overly dynamic, shooting 47.8 percent from the floor, with only four treys, but a 16-of-21 performance at the foul line, coupled with a defensive effort that limited the Scarlet Knights to 37.5 percent field goal efficiency, with only four treys on 20 attempts, certainly helped matters. One of the glaring negatives from the game was that Memphis committed 16 turnovers, five of which were credited to Chris Crawford, and four to Jackson.