There is no better game to attend than a Big 5 game in the Palestra. The crowd is packed. The sound is unforgettable. The band is loud. It is one of the greatest collegiate athletic atmospheres in America.
On this upcoming Wednesday, January 20th, the Palestra will host back-to-back Big Five matchups. La Salle and Temple will clash in the first game at 7 pm, while Penn and Saint Joseph’s will follow at 9 pm.
Here is our preview to the first of these matchups, La Salle vs. Temple:
Fran Dunphy and the Owls (9-7) are entering this game on the back of a 2-point victory over AAC conference foe Cincinnati and they are poised to carry over that momentum against an undermanned Explorers team.
La Salle (5-10) has struggled so far this season, partly due to a lack of depth (only six scholarship players currently available), but have won two big games against Towson and Dayton. Temple will have the upperhand in this one, but if La Salle can continue to effectively run their low-tempo offense, then they can make a game of it.
What to expect:
Look for both teams to play slow, mostly out of their half court sets. Coach Dunphy’s teams always play in the half court at a methodical pace, while La Salle has had recent success with their new offensive style. A much more patient offense has worked for them and they will need to run it effectively if they want to compete against a surging Temple team, who can get impatient at times.
Key Matchup: Quenton DeCosey vs. Jordan Price
Quenton DeCosey will most likely be matched up against La Salle’s leading scorer, Jordan Price. Price has scored in double figures in all but one of his games this season and has been the focal point for the offense, averaging nearly 22 points per game. On the contrary, Price will have to guard DeCosey who is Temple’s leading scorer and is shooting a career high from three at about 41%. This battle will specifically decide their team's fate, as both players are the stars and key players on their respective offenses.
X-Factors: Amar Stukes and Daniel Dingle
Two players that have struggled mightily at times. Two players that have sent their coaches scratching their heads. Two players that need to step up for their respective teams to win. Amar Stukes is coming into his own as of late, as the Philly native is averaging 7.6 points and 4.6 assists in his last five contests. In two out of La Salle’s five wins, Stukes has scored in double figures and if he can find a way to reach that mark again, the Explorers may have a chance. On the other side, forward Daniel Dingle will look to recover after a mere 13 points over his last five games. However, when he has scored more than 5 points, the team is 3-1. If he can come in and have more of a consistent offensive impact, it will prove to be a huge boost off of the bench for the team.
What Temple needs to do to win: Hit their threes
Despite only shooting 31% from three on the season, the team has shot an average of 23 threes per game. If they want to continue shooting, they need to start hitting them. This has been demonstrated in their two wins against ranked teams, where they shot above 38% from three. Guys like Devin Coleman and Obi Enechionyia need to provide that touch off of the bench. In games where Coleman shoots above 45% from three, the team is 4-1. When Enechionyia shoots higher than 45% from three, the team is additionally 4-2. If Temple wants to not only beat La Salle, but make some noise in their conference, they will need to begin hitting their threes more consistently.
What La Salle needs to do to win: Control the pace of play and play through their star
As of late, the Explorers have played slow and run down the shot clock. As a result, they’ve been able to use much of their energy on the defensive end. It translated into a recent win for them, against a nationally recognized Dayton team. La Salle ran basic offensive sets for good looks, which also subsequently helped to limit turnovers. The team also needs to make sure they play through their star, Jordan Price. For the most part, the Explorers are successful in getting Price the ball in positions to score, but this will be imperative against a stingy Temple defense.
Prediction: 65-50, Temple
This game will probably be close for much of the contest, as Temple has consistently played down to competition. Expect both teams to come out of the gates slow, but for Temple to pull away as the game wanes on. Temple’s talent and added depth (compared to La Salle) should eventually outmuscle the Explorers. Although Temple will probably win by more, their lead will most likely hover around 10 points for much of the game.
-Benjamin Simon and William Derry
-Temple finishes season with 80-69 loss against East Carolina in first round of AAC tournament