Temple-Texas A&M Preview
Playing a morning contest in the losers' bracket is not how Temple expected to conclude its stay at the Old Spice Classic.
Trying to salvage something positive from what is likely to be an overall disappointing tournament experience, the No. 21 Owls face one more hurdle Sunday against Texas A&M in the consolation final in Orlando, Fla.
Temple (3-1) is the only ranked school in the eight-team tournament field, but its 11 a.m. EST start Sunday could be the Owls' last game for a while as a member of the Top 25 due to Thursday's 57-50 opening-round loss to California.
Though they're not part of the title game in prime time, the Owls do have a chance to end the event on a positive note after bouncing back to beat Georgia 65-58 on Friday.
"After that loss (to Cal), it hurt us a lot," said forward Scootie Randall, who had a career-high 18 points Friday after totaling 15 in his previous three contests. "I think we prepared a lot for that game, and for us to lose that game like that it was hard on us over the hours after the game. We had to be prepared."
The Owls must be prepared to face Texas A&M (4-1), which returns five of its top seven scorers from last season's 24-10 team that suffered a second-round NCAA tournament loss in overtime to Purdue.
The Aggies, who opened the event with a 67-65 defeat to Boston College on Thanksgiving, rolled to a 74-45 victory over Manhattan on Friday.
"That's who we are," coach Mark Turgeon said. "I told the guys at halftime, 'Guys, we can't have dips. We've got to keep going upward and then have small dips. We have major dips. We have them in practice, we have them in games."
The only previous meeting between these schools was Temple's 60-44 victory during the 1957-58 season.
The Owls would like a similar result to help build some confidence with games against Maryland and No. 16 Georgetown in the next two weeks.
Temple led by only two at halftime Friday but started the second half on a 15-6 run and slowly pulled away from the Bulldogs. Ramone Moore had 14 points with eight rebounds as the Owls shot 49.0 percent after making 33.3 percent against Cal.
"I think our whole team played better," coach Fran Dunphy said. "I'm proud of what they did."
The only Owls player averaging in double figures at 11.3 points per game, Moore bounced back after being held to five on 2-of-11 shooting versus Cal. Temple is 14-2 when the junior guard scores 10 points or more.
Moore and the Owls hope to get off to a strong start against a Texas A&M squad that has outscored opponents 199-125 during the first half this season.
Leading scorer Khris Middleton (15.4 ppg) is averaging 19.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in the tournament.