No. 19 Wichita State out for revenge vs. Temple

Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said this has been the toughest February of his coaching career.

That difficult stretch continues Thursday when the 19th-ranked Shockers look for revenge at home against a surging Temple team that beat them two weeks ago.

Wichita State is in its first season in the American Athletic Conference. It’s been an up-and-down inaugural campaign for the Shockers (19-5, 9-3 AAC), who were picked to contend with Cincinnati for the league crown.

They kicked off February with an 81-79 overtime loss to the Owls, but have responded with back-to-back blowout wins over Memphis and Connecticut.

“It’s the toughest February for me in 20 years as a coach,” Marshall said this week. “We didn’t quite have this type of schedule, gauntlet if you will, in the Big South for nine years at Winthrop, then the first 10 years here.”

The Owls (15-10, 7-6 AAC) have won five straight behind reigning AAC player of the week Quinton Rose. The sophomore guard leads Temple in scoring at 14.9 points per game and is coming off his second straight 20-point performance in the Owls’ 73-55 road win at South Florida on Saturday.

Temple players point to a change in pace for their recent turnaround.

“We had a team meeting after that Cincinnati loss (75-42 on Jan. 24) and talked about what we did in South Carolina when we won the (Charleston Classic) championship and decided we could push the ball more,” Temple junior guard Shizz Alston told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

It has worked. The Owls have averaged 82.4 points per game since the loss to Cincinnati.

Rose had 19 points and fueled a second-half comeback in Temple’s earlier win over Wichita State. Shockers’ big man Shaquille Morris had 24 points in the loss.

“To get a win like his against a team that has that kind of cache to it, it’s good,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy told reporters after the win.

“You’re always motivated to play a good team, and they’re obviously a very good team,” Marshall added. “They snatched the victory from us, and they made the plays. This time they come here, and they’re still trying to get into the NCAA Tournament, as are we. It should be a great game.”

The Shockers opened conference play with five straight wins, but went through a rocky patch that featured back-to-back losses to SMU and Houston.

Marshall has been reminding his seniors that there is not much time left in the season and that they don’t want to end up regretting not doing everything possible to finish on a strong note.

“I write on the board the remaining schedule, how many days that is, how many weeks that is,” Marshall said. “One of these days, they’re going to say, unless we win the national championship, they’re going to say, ‘I wish we could have done a little more.’ Now’s the time. Don’t lament that later on in life.”

After Wednesday’s game, Wichita State hits the road to take on first-place and fifth-ranked Cincinnati on Sunday. The Bearcats are unbeaten in league play and own a three-game lead over the Shockers and Houston in the conference.