Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Temple Owls continue their murderous stretch of games against formidable foes, as they play host to the 21st-ranked Connecticut Huskies in American Athletic Conference action on Thursday night.
Connecticut comes in sporting a 20-5 overall record, which includes an 8-4 league ledger. The Huskies have won three straight games, the most recent of which being an 86-81 overtime decision at home against Memphis. UConn is 4-3 in true road games this season, and has won three of its last four on enemy hardwood.
Temple is facing its third consecutive member of the Top-25, and is coming off its biggest win of the campaign as it dropped visiting SMU this past Sunday in a 71-64 final. The victory was only the seventh of the season for the Owls, and just their second in AAC play. In all, the Owls will face five straight ranked foes, with road tilts against Memphis and Louisville coming in the next week. Temple is just 3-8 at home this season.
The all-time series between these two teams stands at 5-3 in favor of UConn, which routed the Owls at home back on Jan. 21, 90-66. Prior to that, the last meeting took place in 1965.
Shabazz Napier drained five 3-pointers on his way to a career-high 34 points in helping the Huskies to a hard-fought overtime triumph over Memphis, earning the season series sweep of the Tigers in the process. Ryan Boatright scored 21 points while handing out six assists, but it was the effort of the two guards (combined 20-of-24) that earned the Huskies a whopping 29-6 edge in points from the foul line. It was a good thing too, as Memphis shot 54.8 percent from the floor, knocking down 7-of-15 3-point attempts along the way, compared to a UConn squad that actually shot better from beyond the arc (.429) than it did the field overall (.393). Another deciding factor was that the Tigers were guilty of 18 turnovers, while the Huskies had only six.
Napier is making a strong case for AAC Player of the Year honors, as he averages 18.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game, all while shooting a blistering 42.1 percent from 3-point range. DeAndre Daniels is also hitting his long-range shot in excess of 40 percent of the time (.458), and he joins Boatright in averaging double digits, with 13.2 and 12.4 ppg, respectively. The Huskies are outscoring their opponents by nearly 12 ppg, while significantly outshooting them from everywhere on the court.
Dalton Pepper continued his maturation as one of the AAC's top guards, as he tallied 24 points in leading Temple to its recent upset win over SMU. Help came from Quenton DeCosey, Will Cummings and Mark Williams, the trio combining for 36 points and 16 rebounds. Cummings was also credited with seven of the team's 15 assists. Collectively, the Owls shot just 39.6 percent from the field, but used a 21-14 edge in points from the foul line coupled with a 38-25 rebounding advantage to saddle the Mustangs with only their sixth loss of the season, fourth in conference.
Temple is the only team in the nation boasting four players that average at least 14 ppg, with Pepper shining brightest with his 17.3 ppg. Cummings is next with 16.2 ppg, while also serving as the club's primary playmaker with 4.4 apg. Anthony Lee is close to averaging a double-double with his 14.0 points and 8.9 caroms per contest, all of which help the Owls score 73.8 ppg. Unfortunately, the team's defensive effort has been woeful, with foes lighting it up for more than 77 ppg, thanks to a 46.7 percent shooting effort, that features a better than 35 percent showing from beyond the arc.