For the second time in 13 days, the Louisville Cardinals (23-4, 12-2) and Temple Owls (7-19, 2-12) will hoop-it-up, this time, at the KFC Yum Center on ESPN 2 with tip-off slated for 9:05 PM EST. The No.4/7 (USA Today/AP) Cardinals will be looking for their seventh straight win and and a perfect 7-0 February while the Owls have now lost 14 of their last 16 games and it seems that they have “flown-the-coop” on this season.
Temple is a young team, having only one senior on the roster in Dalton Pepper, and while Pepper is the best scorer for the Owls, they do feature three other guys averaging at least 13 points per game. They are one of five teams in division I to have four players averaging at least 13 points per contest. The owls have had some really ugly losses (Texas Southern, Towson, Kent State) but also showed the ability to knock off a top-25 opponent (No.23 SMU) as recently as February 16.
The Owls’ top four scorers, Pepper (17.2), Will Cummings (16.3), Quenton DeCosey (15.2) and Anthony Lee (13.8) combine for 62.5 points per game which is seven more than the Cards top four scorers (Hancock, Harrell, Smith, Jones) but after that, there is a huge drop off, with the rest of the team only accounting for 17.8 points.
For the Cards, it really is as simple as it looks on paper. Outscore the Owls’ big four and there’s no reason why you will need to pick up your nearest razor. Temple is one of those teams that could be very good in the near future but right now they lack enough firepower to be considered a threat.
Louisville raced out to a 53-25 lead at halftime in the first match-up and I don’t expect this one to be much different. Russ Smith and Terry Rozier have both been playing very well as of late and I would expect Smith to get close to the 15 points he scored against the Owls previously. Rozier has really stepped up his overall game and has been arguably the best player on the team in February. Rozier was held scoreless on 0-4 shooting in the first game and if not for his two fouls, would’ve had zeros all the way across his stat line. Don’t expect that to happen this time around.
With the way Montrezl Harrell has been playing, (21 pts and 10 rbs. vs. Cincinnati Saturday) and the way he punished Temple in Philadelphia back on the February 14, you have to think that his stellar play will continue. “Trez” as he’s affectionately known around these parts, bullied the Owls to the tune of 22 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks, two assists and a steal in the first meeting. When he gets in-the-zone and really plays to his potential, there’s not many that can stop or contain him. Expect another healthy dose of his customary mouthpiece posing and slobbery war calls Thursday.
Lastly, I think you will see the re-emergence of Wayne Blackshear, who had a putrid game against Cincinnati last Saturday and had he not come up with the games biggest block, would be on most fans’ radar for all the wrong reasons. The Chicago native has shown flashes of his brilliance that made him a highly coveted McDonald’s All-American out of high school but has also been a no-show at times. Wayne played well in the first game against Temple with 13 points on 5-10 shooting including 2-3 from behind the arc.
This is the perfect recipe game for Wayne as he can come out with no pressure and just let the game come to him. I expect we will see him play solid defense and with the Cards sharing the ball, he will get his open looks and make the most of it.
Prediction: Louisville wins easily and is never threatened, 80-60 behind solid shooting, crisp passing and great defense yet again. Russ and Wayne tie for the leading scorer with 15 each while Harrell, Chris Jones and Luke Hancock all get at least 10. I think Rozier hits the eight or nine point mark but more importantly, shuts down his man while dishing out a team-high eight assists and gets six rebounds.