So much is being made about Temple’s regular-season finale Saturday against Central Florida. But that game will have less meaning if the Owls don’t take care of business when they visit UConn on Thursday for an American Athletic Conference game.
Temple (21-8, 11-5 AAC) is very much on the bubble for an NCAA Tournament bid, and the Owls’ home game against UCF (22-6, 12-4) could be a battle for third place in the conference. A loss at UConn, however, could take the Owls off that bubble.
Temple also can clinch one of the four first-round byes in the AAC tournament by defeating UConn. Houston (14-2), Cincinnati (14-2), and UCF have already earned byes.
UConn (14-15, 5-11) is more dangerous than its record indicates. The Huskies snapped a six-game losing streak Saturday with a 60-58 home win over South Florida. Four of the six losses in that streak were by eight points or fewer.
“It is going to be a tough game,” said senior guard Shizz Alston, who leads Temple and is second in the AAC with a 19.1 scoring average. “They have nothing to lose, and we have to win, so you will see two desperate teams.”
The six-game losing streak began with an 81-63 loss at Temple on Feb. 6. UConn’s leading scorer, senior guard Jalen Adams, suffered a knee injury in that game and has been out since.
Adams, who is UConn’s No. 12 all-time leading scorer with 1,659 points, has been warming up recently before games. Asked about his status for the Temple game, a UConn official said Wednesday, “There is no update.”
UConn sophomore guard Alterique Gilbert, who missed the first Temple game with an injury, is back. He is averaging 13 points and had 15 in Sunday’s win over USF.
“Gilbert looks like he is healthy, and he is a tough guy to guard,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “He can make plays, he can make shots, he is really a force in there, and is pretty forceful at the defensive end, as well.”
Temple will have to do a better job against 6-foot-10 sophomore Josh Carlton, who had 18 points (hitting 9 of 10 from the field) and 13 rebounds in the earlier loss.
"Carlton has become a force down there,” Dunphy said. “He has really enhanced his game in so many different ways, and they get after you defensively.”
Temple is coming off an 80-69 triumph on Sunday over Tulane, the Green Wave’s 18th consecutive loss. Quinton Rose scored a career-high 29 points and went to the basket with authority.
Rose is averaging 16.6 points. He had 12 points, shooting 5-for-9, in the earlier win over UConn.