GETTING BACK ON TRACK: Pirates seeking first league win at Temple
Published 4:20 pm Friday, January 8, 2016
It will be a tale of two teams in Philadelphia Saturday as the East Carolina men’s basketball team travels to Temple to take on the Owls.
The Pirates are coming off two unimpressive conference losses to Central Florida and Tulsa, both of which exposed problems at the forward position for ECU (8-7, 0-2 American Athletic Conference).
“Our bodies are out,” said head coach Jeff Lebo. “Marshall Guilmette was a big body, Deng Riak was a big body, Mike Zangari was a big body. We don’t have the big bodies right now. Hopefully we’re battling hard and we’re trying to be very physical, but we’ve had to play small a lot because of that lack of size inside.”
Temple (7-6, 2-1 AAC), on the other hand, is riding high after its second win over a ranked AAC team in as many weeks. The Owls knocked off Connecticut 55-53 on a buzzer beater by Josh Brown.
Despite the two major wins recently, the Owls still have struggled to find their footing this season. Just four days after knocking off No. 22 Cincinnati, Houston beat down Temple by 27 on the Owls home floor. Temple also lost to St. Joseph’s at home and a far different Wisconsin team than made it to the NCAA championship last season.
However, in a season that was supposed to push the tempo of college basketball and increase scoring in the game, Temple has kept their games slow and defensive, allowing just under 70 points per game this season and scoring 68.4 themselves.
“They’re very physical defensively,” Lebo said. “They’re tough guys. They’re used to winning. That’s the one thing: their physicality, defensively and offensively, they bring to what they do.”
When the defensive Owls show up, they are hard to beat, having held four teams less than 65 points this season.
Temple spreads out its scoring, as Quenton DeCosey (14.9 points per game) is the lone Owl scoring in double figures this season, but four other players average more than eight per game. DeCosey is also the Owls second leading rebounder (6.2 per game) while Jaylen Bond leads the team with 7.5 boards per game. Bond is second on the team in scoring with 9.8 per game.
Since the start of conference play, ECU has shot 29.8 percent and 34.8 percent from the field. Though depth from the bench has been an issue since the start of conference play, freshman Kentrell Barkley has continued to impress. Barkley has scored in double figures in both AAC games thus far and has grabbed a combined 10 rebounds in the pair of losses.
Barkley has burst onto the scene in this his rookie campaign. He’s been consistent, too, which is why his teammates believe he’s capable of helping out in a big way during this tough set of games.
“I think he’s ready,” said senior guard Prince Williams. “I don’t think he needs any more motivation. He’s a guy that’s going to bring it every night. We really expect for him to compete and to contribute to the team.”
The Temple matchup comes in the midst of a difficult stretch in conference play for the Pirates. After playing the Owls, ECU will take on an undefeated Southern Methodist team, Central Florida, Tulsa and Memphis.
“I’m just being a leader on the floor,” Williams said. He’s experienced plenty of similar, grinding stretches during his tenure as a Pirate.
“I have to step up my play. We’ve got a tough two games coming up with Temple and SMU. I’ve just got to raise my level of play and get my guys ready.”
The road for the Pirates will remain difficult, but against a Temple team that has been unpredictable, this may be a chance to get on track.