Following their second lengthy pandemic pause, the Temple Owls will finally return to the court on Monday when they visit the SMU Mustangs in an American Athletic Conference matchup in Dallas.
The game was moved back from Sunday to give the Owls an extra day to prepare. Games against Memphis and Tulane were postponed “due to a positive COVID-19 case and the ensuing contact tracing of student-athletes at Temple,” according to an AAC announcement on Dec. 31.
The Owls (1-2, 0-2 AAC), who didn’t begin their season until Dec. 19 because of a shutdown of basketball activities due to COVID-19, have been idle since a 79-71 home loss to the Mustangs on Dec. 30.
SMU (6-2, 2-2) has played twice since then, but it has come up empty both times despite playing on its own court, falling to then-No. 5 Houston and to Cincinnati.
The latter loss, in which SMU led most of the way, particularly irked Mustangs coach Tim Jankovich, who didn’t like his team’s performance in general and shot selection in particular. SMU led 67-66 with 2:32 left in the game.
“I just thought we made so many mental errors and made so many poor decisions, took so many really, really, really poor shots. That, to me, kept them in it the whole time,” Jankovich said.
The Mustangs hit only one of their final five shots, a layup with 10 seconds left after the game had been decided.
“We talk about it all the time,” Jankovich said. “The closer to the end of the game, the more solid, the better shots, the more you can’t gamble. I thought that’s when we were very poor, even before the game broke open, when it’s a close, close game.”
Kendric Davis, who leads four SMU players in double figures at 19 points per game, finished with 14 against Cincinnati. He had 13 in the earlier meeting with Temple, with 11 coming in the second half and five during the final stretch to seal the win.
“Overall, we did a pretty good job against him. Everyone that guarded him was up for the challenge,” Temple coach Aaron McKie said. “We kept him quiet but late in the game he made a few big shots, which is what you expect from him.”
Davis is also averaging 7.6 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game, and Feron Hunt is giving the Mustangs 11.6 points and 8.4 boards per contest.
Temple has four players averaging at least 9.7 points per game, led by Damian Dunn at 13.3. DeVondre Perry is nabbing 8.7 rebounds per game.
The Owls have struggled offensively in their limited opportunities, scoring only 64.3 points per game while shooting 35.7 percent from the field and 30.8 percent on 3-pointers.
They will be facing a defense that is giving up only 67 points per game, and among the nation’s best in holding teams to 39.1 percent shooting from the field.
–Field Level Media