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With little time to prepare, Temple cramming for play-in game against Belmont

The Owls are doing all they can to prepare for Belmont in the little time they have before Tuesday night.

Temple's Nate Pierre-Louis is expected to spend time guarding Belmont's Dylan Windler, the Bruins' top scorer, during the Owls' NCAA play-in game Tuesday night.
Temple's Nate Pierre-Louis is expected to spend time guarding Belmont's Dylan Windler, the Bruins' top scorer, during the Owls' NCAA play-in game Tuesday night.Read moreLOU RABITO / Staff

DAYTON, Ohio - Temple’s basketball team sort of has the feeling of a college student who enters a final exam not having spent enough time studying.

But unlike the delinquent student, this one was out of the Owls’ control.

So little time, so much to do.

That has been the situation for Temple and Belmont, who meet in Tuesday’s 9:10 p.m. NCAA play-in game in Dayton.

The teams found out early in the 6 p.m. Selection Show on Sunday that they would be meeting for the first time ever.

Since then it has been a sprint.

“It has really been something I have never been through,” Temple junior Quinton Rose said before the Owls participated in an open-court practice at the University of Dayton Arena on Monday evening. “We have had to have laser focus and have been focusing extra hard.”

The Temple coaching staff watched film of Belmont with the players Sunday night. The Owls departed early Monday afternoon and then practiced in the afternoon at Sinclair Community College.

Then there was media availability Monday night at the University of Dayton Arena. Temple, as with all teams, then held a 45-minute open practice, but that was more for show. The real work was done at the junior college.

Was this really enough time to cram for their big NCAA exam?

“You don’t sleep too much and you’re fired up, you’re excited about the opportunity,” said coach Fran Dunphy, in his final go-around with Temple before giving way to associate head coach Aaron McKie, his designated successor. “You are going to learn as much as you can over the next 24 hours.”

Of course, cramming beats the alternative, which would be preparing for the NIT.

“I think it is good and bad because Belmont had just as much time to prepare for us as well,” said Temple’s leading scorer Shizz Alston, who is averaging 19.7 points per game. “We did a lot of film study as soon as the Selection Sunday [broadcast] was over.”

And the film study continued during the plane ride to Dayton.

“We have watched so much film that for as little time as we have had to prepare, we feel we have a good handle on them,” said Rose, averaging 16.5 points.

The Owls didn’t have to watch too much tape to know that Belmont can score. The Bruins are second in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 87.4 points per game. They are fifth in field goal shooting (49.9 percent) and shoot 37.3 percent from three-point range.

“We have to run them off the three-point line and make them shoot mid-range, not layups or threes,” Alston said.

A key is stopping 6-foot-8 senior Dylan Windler, who is averaging 21.4 points and 10.7 rebounds.

Temple’s’ best defender is the 6-4 Nate Pierre-Louis, who expects to spend time guarding Windler.

“They’ve got an NBA player [Windler] and I can’t wait to see how I defend him,” Pierre-Louis said.

Look for 6-7 De’Vondre Perry to come off the bench to also defend Windler.

The Bruins have other firepower in senior guard Kevin McClain (16.3 points) and 6-11 freshman Nick Muszynski (14.9).

Muszynski missed Belmont’s 77-65 Ohio Valley Conference championship game loss to Murray State with an ankle injury.

Belmont coach Rick Byrd said Muszynski will play against Temple.

“We will just have to see if he’s as full speed as we hope he is, want him to be,” Byrd said.

While Temple didn’t know a lot about Belmont before Selection Sunday, the same is the case for the Bruins.

“I hadn’t seen them play once all year,” Windler said. “So right after the [selection] show, I got on ESPN+ to watch a full game.”

When Byrd was asked his impressions on Temple, he replied, “I wish I had more time.”

Knowing that was wishful thinking, he talked glowingly about the Owls.

“They are a very perimeter-oriented team, great guards, hard to guard one-on-one, hard to guard off ball screens,” Byrd said. “They have guys who can make tough shots.”

Byrd said he is still learning the names of Temple’s players, but he is identifying them by their numbers.

Sometimes when a person doesn’t have enough time to study, shortcuts must be taken. Both teams will be as ready as possible on Tuesday, but each no doubt would have preferred being in the Wednesday play-in game, earning 24 more precious hours.