Freshman guard Jalen Brunson and top-ranked Villanova got the jump on Big Five rival Temple Wednesday night at the Liacouras Center in North Philly.
Maybe my thinking was all wrong.
Maybe Fran Dunphy was, all along, the perfect man to replace John Chaney at Temple University when the Hall of Fame men’s basketball coach called it a career back in 2006.
If ever a thought to the contrary remained firmly entrenched in the mind behind this literary brilliance, it was thoroughly shattered in Wednesday night’s Big Five spectacle at the Liacouras Center.
By sheer mathematical theory.
Indeed, it’s with great amazement and wonder that one question comes bubbling to the surface here, uncontrollably, like some processed food that didn’t agree with the tummy.
Can these guys count?
No, seriously. It seems to be an issue. For all the tactical theatrics and strategical sessions to which the sport itself has been behold for generations, you’d think leaders and teachers at institutions of higher learning would be able to grasp, and remember, one simple fact:
Three is greater than two (3 > 2).
Indeed, it is. Always. Especially when you happen to be facing a double-digit deficit on the scoreboard with the clock winding down. When that situation arises, you better step beyond the arc and start chucking treys if you have any hope, or intention, of emerging victorious.
Hosting top-ranked Villanova in just the second contest pitting Philly teams with one of them No. 1, the first coming 28 years ago when the teams’ roles were reversed, Temple found itself down but not entirely out before a sold-out crowd, thanks to a rule, a shot adopted by the NCAA now 30 years ago.
The 3-point line. It giveth and it taketh away … particularly when you don’t use it. Or use it enough.
Trailing the Wildcats 65-50, the Owls closed the gap with a trifecta by freshman Trey Lowe at the 7:22 mark. At that point, Temple had a chance.
But the validity of that dwindled mainly due to Dunphy’s refusal to make his squad square up and let fly from downtown … and only downtown.
It was like watching so, so many failures by the Owls under the national spotlight while their legendary taskmaster roamed the sidelines. For all his success, Chaney seemed to shut down at critical, end-game junctures when that 3-for-2 formula escaped his consciousness. He never got the concept that trading baskets down the stretch does nothing to draw a team that finds itself behind any closer to its opponent.
Keeps ’em right there, where they already are, in the loser’s position. That’s it.
Following that pattern had as much to do with Temple failing in bids to advance beyond NCAA tournament regional finals in 1988, ’93 and ’01 as anything Duke, Michigan and Michigan State did during them.
This latest numbers-crunching catastrophe was very reminiscent.
After Lowe’s bomb got the Owls within 12, they took 15 more shots from the field. Only six were from distance.
Yo, “Dunph,” you only get so many opportunities against No. 1, at your own place, and within any game to cut down a big deficit in the waning minutes.
For reference, see your own tapes from less than a week ago against Connecticut. The Owls, down 54-42 with 5:51 to go, chucked up 3s on their next three trips down the floor to kickstart a comeback, 63-58 victory.
But Chaney never followed that logic, and his supporters never called him for not following it … so Dunphy should be just fine.
Even yours truly has to finally admit, after this latest one, he fits.
- Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Villanova rules city
Even before this one, that was true. But the Wildcats hammered home that fact by winning their 14th straight Big Five game. Last time they fell to another Philly school, Ryan Arcidiacono was still a freshman, Temple would soon beat No. 3 Syracuse and La Salle would make an improbable run into the NCAA Sweet 16. Both the Owls and Explorers, who beat ’Nova 76-61 and 77-74 (OT), respectively, were much, much better teams with greater individual talent back then.
2. Great atmosphere
We all know about the Palestra, its history and its “cathedral of college basketball” moniker, but, really, truly, the Liacouras Center blows away that facility. Sorry, it just does. Newer sometimes does trump older. Didn’t hurt that the fans came out to set a record attendance for the place (10,472) and that Temple’s athletic administrators know how to put on a show.
3. Get over it
Not sure which is sadder, Temple’s issue with Jalen Brunson opting for choosing to play at Villanova or former Owls’ star Rick Brunson hating his alma mater for not hiring him as an assistant coach to help lure his son to the North Philly campus. Kids owe no allegiance to their parents’ schools, and schools owe no job to an alum who has issues with the authorities. Move on, both sides.
4. Youth to be served
Brunson, obviously, is every bit the star most projected him to be. That 25-point effort was no fluke. He’s dynamite. But Temple’s sophomore-freshman tandem of Obi Enechionyia and Trey Lowe ain’t too shabby, either. Lowe tallied 21 points against ’Nova while the 6-9 Enechionyia had 15 points and 9 boards.
5. Add insult to injury
As if losing to the top-ranked Wildcats weren’t enough, the Owls had to grind their teeth after seeing two other top-five teams went down Wednesday night, one of them at the hands of friggin’ Penn State. Oh yeah, fellow Big Fiver Saint Joseph’s also knocked off No. 15 Dayton. Ugh.