Temple anticipated a rebuilding year of sorts, although little could have prepared it for so many close defeats. The Owls, who hope to avoid their worst 12-game start in 10 seasons Saturday when they travel to Central Florida, lost Atlantic-10 Player of the Year Khalif Wyatt and other key players from last year's team that nearly upset No. 1 seed Indiana in the NCAA Tournament. Temple is 2-5 in games decided by six points or fewer, losing three of its last four by a total of seven points.
Coach Fran Dunphy has received a lot of production from Dalton Pepper, Will Cummings and Quenton DeCosey - mostly role players from last season - but has been forced to play them all at least 34 1/2 minutes, which has led to second-half fades in most of their losses. The Knights saw their five-game winning streak come to a screeching halt in Tuesday's AAC-opening 90-65 loss versus Louisville. Saturday will be the first all-time meeting between the new conference rivals.
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ABOUT TEMPLE (5-6, 0-1 AAC): The Owls' already-limited bench took another hit after the school announced that sixth man Daniel Dingle was likely lost for the season after tearing the meniscus in his right knee during practice Sunday. Dingle was coming off two of his top three scoring performances of the season and was fifth in the team in scoring (6.7 points). The Owls have only trailed at the break twice, but been outscored by at least eight points after intermission in half of their losses.
ABOUT CENTRAL FLORIDA (8-4, 0-1): The Knights entered Tuesday shooting 50 percent beyond the arc over their last four contests with at least 11 3-pointers in each game. However, they predictably ran into a buzzsaw with a 3-for-14 effort against the tenacious Cardinals' defense. Tristan Spurlock was shut out from long range for the first time since the season opener while his two-point effort was the worst of the season; the 6-8 senior forward had scored at least 21 points three times during the team's winning streak.
1. Central Florida and Temple are the third- and fourth-highest scoring offenses in the league, respectively, but rank seventh or lower in scoring defense.
2. The Knights have shot 42.9 percent beyond the arc in their wins, but only 29.7 percent in their losses.
3. Pepper, Cummings and DeCosey rank second, third and fourth in the AAC in minutes per game while no Central Florida players average 30 minutes.
PREDICTION: Central Florida 78, Temple 75