If there is any silver lining in the Dawgs double-overtime loss to Notre Dame last night, I suppose it’s that the game tonight against the #20 Temple Owls (2-1) will not tip-off until 7:30pm – giving everyone the opportunity to watch The Iron Bowl at 2:30pm (Notre Dame plays California at 5:00pm).
Both Georgia (3-1) and Temple blew second-half leads in their games yesterday, and now the two teams will meet in the loser’s bracket of the Old Spice Classic.
Temple is currently ranked in both the AP and Coaches polls, and the Owls were predicted to win the Atlantic 10 by Rivals.com.
The strength of this Owls team is its tough, physical man defense. Through their first three games, Temple has been surrendering a mere 54.0 points per game and limiting opponents to just 35.2% from the field.
On offensive it’s been a different story for the Owls – they are averaging just 64.7 ppg (259th in the nation) and shooting a rocky 43.9% from the floor (171st in the nation). I watched their game last night against the Cal Bears, and it’s pretty clear that this Temple team isn’t going to scare many teams with their shooting prowess – the Owls shot 33.3% on field goals and a dismal 2 of 19 from beyond the arc.
The Temple frontcourt features Atlantic 10 Preseason Player of the Year Lavoy Allen. Allen, a 6’9″ senior, is currently averaging 11.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg and 3.7 assists. He looks more comfortable with the ball when facing the basket, and he is a surprisingly good passer for a big man.
Alongside Allen is the man with two first names, 6’11” junior Michael Eric. Eric is netting 8.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg and a team-leading 2.7 blocks. He is very athletic for a guy his size, and attacks the basket with a quickness not seen in too many 6’11” bigs.
Georgia’s Jeremy Price and Chris Barnes will need to clean up their interior defense tonight unless they want Allen and Eric to repeat what Notre Dame did in the paint.
The Owls are led in the backcourt by junior point guard Juan Fernandez. Fernandez was named to the Atlantic 10 preseason All-League Second Team after coming off a strong sophomore season in which he averaged 12.4 points and 3.6 assists per game.
If there is a shooter to be weary of on this Temple team, it’s Fernandez – last season he hit 45.3% from beyond the arc. He has started out sluggish from three-point range this year, knocking down just 2 of his first 14 attempts. But all good shooters snap out of their funks eventually, and Georgia needs to be conscientious of where Fernandez is on the court so he doesn’t get it going from outside.
Personally, I thought that the return of Trey Thompkins would mean that things would open up even more on the inside for senior big Jeremy Price. Last night, Price proved me wrong – he finished 0-0 from the field and mustered just 3 points in 20 minutes before fouling out.
Against this aggressive Temple defense, Price has to be more active on the opposite block when the ball goes down into Thompkins. The Owls will look to lend a lot of help in the paint when Trey has the ball, and Price needs to make himself an available target for his teammate.
At the risk of sounding over-confident, I feel like Georgia matches up really well with this Temple team (Las Vegas does not agree however, making the Owls a 4-point favorite).
Gerald Robinson, Jr. should be able to exploit Juan Fernandez in the half-court set and get into the lane and create for himself (and his teammates).
Trey Thompkins got his first game back out-of-the-way – I expect him to be a little closer to form tonight. Allen is a solid post player, but he is no Trey Thompkins. If Trey can get things going from the outside, Allen will be in for a LONG night. Defensively, I think that Trey can really limit Allen’s offense if he can initiate contact and keep him with his back to the basket when he has the ball.
The Georgia guards must put their 26.5% three-point shooting performance that they had last night against Notre Dame behind them (Dustin Ware and GR2 were a combined 5 of 21 from beyond the arc). The guards should get some nice looks from outside using the high-low game, and hopefully more of the shots will fall tonight.
This is another great early season test for Mark Fox’s Dawgs, and another opportunity to try to add a big out-of-conference win to their tournament resume.
Both the Dawgs and the Owls will be looking to avoid a second-straight loss, so expect both teams to play with a sense of urgency (which should make for an exciting game).
This Temple team is going to win a lot of games this year (and possibly their conference), and a “W” over the Owls would really look to the NCAA Selection Committee in March.