TEMPLE (22-5, 11-2 A-10) AT SAINT JOSEPH’S (18-11, 8-6 A-10)
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Michael J. Hagan ’85 Arena in Philadelphia
Temple 12 (No. 1 Atlantic 10)
Saint Joseph’s 56 (No. 4 Atlantic 10)
Line: Temple -1 (O/U 140)
Temple Players to Watch: G Ramone Moore, 6-4 Sr. (18.2 ppg, 4 rpg, 3.3 apg); C Michael Eric, 6-11 Sr. (7.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 49.4% FG); G Juan Fernandez, 6-4 Sr. (11.5 ppg, 3.9 apg, 38.7% 3s). Moore has turned himself into the A-10 Player of the Year frontrunner. He leads the league in scoring and is second in minutes played and 20-plus point games and fifth in 3-pointers made.
Saint Joseph’s Players to Watch: G Carl Jones, 5-11 Jr. (16.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.3 apg); F C.J. Aiken, 6-9 So. (11.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.8 bpg); G Langston Galloway, 6-2 So. (15.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 49.5% FG). Jones has scored in double-figures in seven straight games, including a 28-point performance in an 80-69 win at Rhode Island on Feb. 15. The junior is sixth in the Atlantic 10 in scoring, 10th in free throw percentage (80.1) and is sixth in minutes played (35.6).
Storylines: Temple has won 11 straight games, including a 10-0 mark since Eric returned from after missing 13 games with a knee injury. The streak has vaulted the Owls into first place in the Atlantic 10. A win over St. Joe’s combined with a Rhode Island upset of Saint Louis would give Temple at least a share of the league title. St. Joseph’s was rolling until Richmond came into Philly and ended its 3-game winning streak on Wednesday. At 8-6, the Hawks are currently sixth in the A-10. Of course, the conference race will be secondary to these Big 5 squads.
Keys: The Owls jumped out to a 38-24 halftime lead and defeated St. Joseph’s 78-60 on Jan. 28. Temple shot 60 percent from the field and 53.3 percent from beyond the 3-point stripe and held the Hawks to 3-for-14 from behind the arc. Both teams are guard-oriented and rely on outside shooting. The Owls shoot 40.9 percent from the 3-point line, while the Hawks hit 36 percent from deep. Temple allows opponents to shoot just 31.9 from the 3-ponit line and St. Joe’s surrenders 35.9. St. Joe’s should have a slight advantage on the boards behind Aiken. The Hawks are fourth in the A-10 in rebound margin at plus-2.4 to Temple’s plus-0.7, although the Owls have played much of the season without Eric. St. Joe’s is also fourth in the league at 36.9 boards per contest. The Hawks block 7.3 shots per game, easily the best in the Atlantic 10. Temple is second in assist-to-turnover ratio (419 assists, 333 turnovers) and sixth in turnover margin (plus-1). St. Joe’s is last in the league in turnover margin. The Hawks turn it over 13.4 times and force just 10.9 errors. St. Joseph’s is 11-3 at home this season, including wins over Penn State, Drexel, Creighton (No. 17 at the time), Villanova, Dayton and UMass. The Owls are 9-3 on the road this year, having won four straight away from home. Temple has already clinched a share of its 26th Big 5 title in the 57-year history of the city series. With a win, the Owls would secure its fifth 4-0 Big 5 season and their second in three seasons.
The Bottom Line: St. Joseph’s matches up well athletically and can score with anyone in the Atlantic 10. The Hawks use the homecourt advantage to pull off a small upset.
The Pick: St. Joseph’s 73, Temple 71