The 9th-ranked Georgetown Hoyas will travel to North Philly tonight to play Temple in what could end up being the single most important regular-season game for the Owls this year. Temple has made the tournament three straight years now, but after three straight 1st Round exits, they came into this season nationally-ranked and looking to get over the hump and make some noise in March.
Following two ugly losses to underwhelming Cal and Texas A&M at the Old Spice Classic last month, the Owls tumbled out of the rankings. They beat Maryland on the road in their last game, which should end up being at least a solid win, if not a very good one. Now, they need to carry that momentum into tonight’s game and knock off the Hoyas.
This game is crucial, not just because it’s against a Top Ten team, but because the only other projected tournament team that will come to the Liacouras Center this year is Richmond. Temple plays Nova and Duke on the road, and their only games against Xavier and Dayton will be played in Ohio. That means that tonight’s game is their best chance to land the kind of marquee win that impresses the selection committee in March.
Here are the keys to an Owls win:
1. Make the size advantage count: This not Patrick Ewing’s or Alonzo Mourning’s or even Roy Hibbert’s Georgetown Hoyas. Their starting line-up is the classic “small” team of three guards, a small forward, and a power forward. With the stress on passing and off-the-ball movement that John Thompson III’s offense features, that makes them tough to guard. But Temple will have a size advantage at every position. With a legit PF (and rebounding machine) in Lavoy Allen and a legit center in Michael Eric, the Owls have to dominate the boards and refuse to settle for outside shots on the offensive end. If they’re successful in doing that, look for Thompson to use his big men off the bench more (Sims and Lubick), but that will create other opportunities for the Owls. The key is to get them out of their comfort zone.
2. Make your long-distance shots: I know, I just said the Owls can’t settle for jump shots, but you can’t win if you don’t hit a few, and it’s been an agonizing struggle for this team to do even that this year. They come into the game shooting 23% as a team from beyond the arc. The first order of business: Ramone Moore just needs to stop shooting them. He’s easily the best slasher on the team, but he made just 5 of 40 3’s last year, and he’s 3 for 19 so far this year. It’s not working, Ramone. Just keep putting the ball on the floor. Juan Fernandez needs to find his stroke, though. After shooting 45% last year, and making 73, he’s made just 24% this year. Scootie Randall and Norristown-native Khalif Wyatt, who’s been a very pleasant surprise, can also help out from long-range.
3. Control the tempo: In case it hasn’t been made clear already, this game is a clash of styles and a match-up of teams with very different strengths. The Hoyas have been incredibly efficient at the offensive end and their three guards, Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, and Jason Clark, are all very dangerous. They will look to push the pace and take a lot of shots because, well, they’re very good at making those shots. Juan Fernandez needs to be in control of the game, keep things moving slowly, and make this a half-court slugfest. No matter what, the Owl perimeter players need to bring their A-games defensively. Freeman is one of the best scorers in the country. Moore (and maybe Rahlir Jefferson?) will have to be physical and aggressive in stopping the strong and skilled Hoya guard.