The Temple men's basketball team played a Big 5 thriller against La Salle in a jam-packed Palestra…
But the 5-10 Owls have a chance to turn things around Saturday in front of the entire country as they meet Big 5 rival La Salle at noon in the Palestra with ESPN's GameDay crew broadcasting live from the historic venue.
"(The Palestra) is part of the fabric of Philadelphia basketball, which is why College GameDay is there," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy. "It wouldn't be College GameDay if it was at Liacouras or Gola.
"(But) for me as a coach, once the ball goes up GameDay doesn't mean anything, what matters to me is keeping Tyreek Duren out of the lane or Jerrell Wright from hitting a jump hook."
While the Owls are 0-5 in their new league, they are 2-0 in the Big 5 — winning the first game of the season in the Palestra against Penn and also beating St. Joes. A victory would set up a winner-take-all matchup with Villanova at the Liacouras Center on Feb. 1 for the City Series title.
"It's another step towards winning the Big 5," said junior point guard Will Cummings, who is expecting to play after missing Tuesday's loss at Cincinnati with concussion-like symptoms. "It's big for us. We need a win. We have a five-game losing streak, we need a couple wins to get back on track. We've just got to make it happen.
"We can't make any more excuses, we're past the excuse of being a young team. We just have to get it done. We have to be tougher mentally and physically."
La Salle, fresh of a surprising run to the Sweet 16 last year, started off slow this season but is picking up steam. The Explorers are 10-6 and have won four straight.
"They're a really good team with no weaknesses," said Dunphy. "They come off the bench with three guys who know their roles."
While the records would indicate a mismatch, the Owls have led in the second half of every game this year, including matchups against nationally-ranked Memphis and Cincinnati recently.
Dunphy said the Owls were staying positive despite the uncommon struggles for a program which has made six straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
"It's better than I anticpated to be honest with you," said Dunphy of the Owls' mental state. "These guys are hanging together pretty good. We've had stretches of playing well, but in those stretches we've had lack of focus. Our lack of focus more than anything else (is leading to losses), we don't have margin for error. We have the requisite scoring, but it only takes one guy to miss an assignment."
If the Owls can put it together, they will be relieved to end their losing streak — whether the game is shown to the whole country or not televised at all.
"The national TV piece is wonderful," said Dunphy. "But more importantly is playing a really good basketball team in the city of Philadelphia. ... I hope it's a great atmosphere, but I would hope it's a great atmosphere for any (Big 5 game)."
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