Posted by Ryan Clark at 6:14AM

Texas Longhorns (7-1) at Temple Owls (4-3)
Wells Fargo Center | Philadelphia, PA | Tip: 11 A.M. CT | TV: ESPNU

The Texas Longhorns face their first road test of the season this afternoon, as they travel to Philadelphia to take on Temple in an off-campus game at Wells Fargo Arena. I’m currently in Puerto Rico to compete in participate in Great Urban Race Nationals, which means that not only will this be the first road game I’ve missed since March of 2006, but also that you’re getting an incredibly abbreviated look at the Owls.

After losing five players from last year’s squad that lost in the NCAA tournament’s round of 32, Temple is now led by Anthony Lee (No. 3), a 6’9″ forward who is a handful in the post. Although he prefers to go over his right shoulder and score with a little left-handed hook, Lee has strong post moves in both directions and is an outstanding rebounder, especially on the defensive glass.

Point guard Will Cummings (No. 2) is a quick guard who loves to attack the rim and can easily slither through traffic to get there. With Temple’s constant motion and multiple screens off the ball, he’s also a great asset thanks to his timely passes that hit those cutters in the perfect position to score.

Sophomore guard Quenton DeCosey (No. 25) is a smooth ballhandler who can get to the rack in a hurry with his long strides. He has made only 33% of his triples and his mid-range game is wildly inconsistent, so Texas would be best served by giving him some space near the arc. DeCosey also has a tendency to dribble the air out of the ball and force passes, so he can be just as frustrating at times for Temple fans as he is exhilirating at others.

The X-factor in today’s game could be Dalton Pepper (No. 32), a 6’5″ guard who can light it up in a hurry. He needs very little space to get his shot off and is very accurate on the quick catch-and-shoot coming off of the numerous aforementioned screens. He’s been a streaky scorer, but still averages 16 points per game.

Keys to the game

1) Take advantage of second chances – Temple has had issues locking down the defensive glass this season, which is great news for a Texas team that is among the best nationally when it comes to grabbing offensive boards. Although the Owls will have the size advantage in the backcourt and on the wings, the Texas frontcourt should still get its share of short-range opportunities and tip-ins after their own missed shots. If the Longhorns can convert these extra chances into points, they should have a shot at the road win today.

2) Push the tempo after defensive boards – The Texas offense has gone through some dry spells in the half-court set this season. Fortunately, Temple prefers to play a man defense, and the Longhorns have had their greatest issues against the zone. Still, looking up after defensive boards for the quick strike downcourt will keep the Texas offense humming. Since the Owls hardly ever turn the ball over, pushing after defensive boards will be Texas’ only good chance at getting transition points.

3) Make free throws – This might seem like a stupid thing to include in the Keys to the Game, but after an awful outing in which Texas made just 15 of 29 against Vanderbilt, it deserves a mention. Compounding the problem is the fact that the Owls send opponents to the line fairly frequently, with a free-throw rate that is just outside of the nation’s bottom 20%. If Texas leaves a bunch of points at the line again this afternoon, it will be very tough to escape Philly with a road win.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 3:45PM

Texas Longhorns 77, Temple Owls 65

Jaylen Bond came to Austin by way of Philadelphia, PA. Once committed to play for Jamie Dixon and the Pittsburgh Panthers, Bond was a victim of the numbers game, forced out by the reclassification of Khem Birch to the class of 2011. With his scholarship taken by Birch, Bond had to leave his home state and ended up a late addition to the recruiting class for Rick Barnes.

On Friday, Pitt announced that Birch was leaving the program for personal reasons. Couple that news with Bond’s eight-point, 12-rebound performance against the Temple Owls, a salty team from his own hometown, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to call it Redemption Weekend for the quiet freshman forward. Add in the 12-point Longhorn victory, one that will be incredibly important come Selection Sunday, and you might be hard-pressed to find a happier person on the 40 Acres than Bond.

The Longhorns couldn’t shut down Khalif Wyatt
(Photo credit: Michael Thomas/Associated Press)

Things didn’t look so bright for the Longhorns in the early going on Saturday afternoon. The Owls were consistently finding easy buckets in the lane and capitalizing on their open looks from outside. Texas, meanwhile, was playing right into the hands of the Temple defense and settling for questionable shots. The Longhorns shot just 28.6% from the field during the first ten minutes of the game, allowing the Owls to build a lead as large as eight points.

The biggest edge Texas had in this game was a massive size advantage, as the Owls had only one big man available — 6’9″ Anthony Lee — and he sat most of the first half thanks to foul trouble. The Longhorns took advantage, outrebounding Temple 12-7 over the final nine minutes of the half as they clawed back to tie the game. Only an incredible three from Khalif Wyatt drilled in the face of a Texas defender gave Temple a three-point edge at the break.

In the second half, Texas finally attacked the Owls inside. The Longhorns piled up 26 points in the paint and outrebounded Temple by a whopping 30-8 margin during the final twenty minutes. Texas smothered the boards so well that the Owls were only able to reclaim 12.7% of their offensive rebounding opportunities, their worst mark since a loss to Kent State on November 21st, 2006.

A big part of the second half revival was the play of Myck Kabongo, who took charge and attacked the Owls with dribble penetration. All three of his assists came in the second half, including an excellent pass to Bond for a dunk that gave Texas a six-point lead 7:16 into the second half — their largest of the game at that point — and forced Temple to call timeout. Kabongo added three layups in the second half, finishing 50% from the field as he posted 18 points.

For the second-straight game, junior guard J’Covan Brown led the Longhorns with 23 points. Despite the team lead in points, Brown was one of Texas’ worst offenders when it came to bad decisions on Saturday. He was consistently pressing and forcing the issue against Temple, trying to score when the defense wasn’t going to allow it. That resulted in six turnovers and an ugly 10-for-21 shooting line, including a 2-of-9 mark from behind the arc. Even a few of Brown’s baskets came on terrible shots, as he dribbled himself into trouble and forced up off-balance looks that somehow went in.

Jaylen Bond was a putback machine against Temple
(Photo credit: Michael Thomas/Associated Press)

Alexis Wangmene had an even tougher time, struggling to stop the Temple guards from the opening tip. He picked up three fouls and played just 12 minutes, with the bulk of his usual minutes going to fellow senior Clint Chapman. The Oregon native took full advantage, playing excellent interior defense in the second half while also leading the Longhorns with 13 rebounds. Chapman added a pair of blocks, and could have had even more than his seven points if he would not have had his standard handful of point-blank misses.

The other star in the frontcourt was Bond. His near double-double came as a result of tenacious work on the offensive glass, where he grabbed four boards and put each of them back in for a bucket. After going three straight games without an offensive rebound, Bond has grabbed 12 in his last two. At this point, his 12.7% mark on the offensive glass would rank in the Top 150 nationally, but he is currently eight total minutes shy of the cutoff to qualify.

The Longhorns also continued to do an excellent job planting their feet and drawing charges. They forced at least five Temple turnovers by earning the whistle on a charging foul, the second straight game in which they have done so. With many of the early-season games airing on the Longhorn Network, accurate charting of this trend is hard to come by. As the calendar rolls into conference play, this will be something worth keeping an eye on, and something we may chart for a future piece.

Up next: at North Carolina (9-2); Wednesday, 6 P.M. CT

Posted by Ryan Clark at 12:10PM

Temple Owls (6-2) at Texas Longhorns (8-2)
Frank Erwin Center | Austin, TX | Tip: 1:30 P.M. CT | TV: ESPN2
LRT Consecutive Game #197

Although Selection Sunday is still three months away, the Longhorns could be putting their tournament hopes on the line this afternoon. In the latest projection from ESPN’s resident bracketologist, Joe Lundardi, Texas was one of the first four teams out of the field, a result of a weak non-conference schedule that included a pair of losses against the only two quality teams on it.

Today, Texas kicks off the truly challenging part of its schedule, hosting Temple before heading to North Carolina and then opening conference play a week later. If the Longhorns are going to make the Big Dance this season, they will have to win their home games against other tournament teams like Temple.

Ramon Moore leads an experienced Temple team
(Photo credit: H. Rumph Jr/Associated Press)

By the Numbers

The Owls aren’t a flashy, exciting bunch, but they are well-coached and well-disciplined. In past seasons under Fran Dunphy, Temple has checked in as part of the bottom third in D-I hoops when it comes to tempo. This season, they’ve sped it up a little, but still only average 67 possessions per game, just off the national average of 67.3 possessions.

On offense, Temple is one of the most efficient teams in the land. They score 1.103 points per possession, the 25th-best mark in the country. The Owls do this by being patient and taking smart shots, which has led to a 52.5% effective field goal mark. That methodical approach also helps to protect the ball, as the Owls turn it over on less than 20% of their possessions.

Defensively, Temple likes to sit back in a man defense reminiscent of the pack-line defense. While there is less pressure on perimeter ballhandlers, the Owls certainly sag off on D, daring opponents to shoot. So far, it’s been very successful this season, with Temple opponents having an effective field goal percentage of 47.1%, below the national average. The Owls have been hurt by a late-November injury to big man Micheal Eric (No. 50), so in recent games, opponents have been able to find more success once they get the ball inside.

Meet the Owls

Without Eric and with senior Scootie Randall (No. 33) working his way back from a torn meniscus, the Temple rotation is very thin. They are essentially running a seven-man rotation, with only one player — 6’9″ redshirt freshman Anthony Lee (No. 3) — checking in over 6-feet, 6-inches.

Although the Owls have lost a lot of size without Eric, they still have a very tall, experienced backcourt. The steady ballhandler is 6’4″ Juan Fernandez (No. 4), a senior from Argentina who is averaging 12.5 points and 4.1 assists per game.

Fernandez uses his size to his advantage, often working smaller guards down the lane before hitting a running floater or a turnaround jumper off the blocks. He’s also just dangerous enough from the outside to keep defenses honest, knocking down 36% of his long-range attempts so far this season. Fernandez looks best from outside when catching the ball in rhythm and stepping into the shot, and he particularly likes to pop it from the right wing.

Joining Fernandez in the backcourt is the team’s leading scorer, senior Ramone Moore (No. 10). Moore is a slippery guard who can create his own shot on the dribble. He’s smooth with the ball cutting through traffic, but he seems most comfortable driving and curling to his left. Moore’s averaging more than 18 points per game and actually has more than four rebounds per game.

The third member of the guard troika is junior Khalif Wyatt (No. 1), the three-point marksman. Although he’s only made 35.5% of his shots behind the arc this season, he has range well past the NBA line and made more than 42% of his threes as a sophomore. He’s also an adept ballhandler, and can take over at the point when Fernandez needs a breather or is in foul trouble.

On the wing, junior Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (No. 32) is a great rebounder and shot blocker. He also added a mindrange jumper to the repertoire this offseason, and it’s keeping defenses more honest. While Hollis-Jefferson isn’t always knocking that shot down from the opening tip, he’s more than willing to take it.

Injuries have forced Anthony Lee into a bigger role
(Photo credit: Chris Chambers/Getty Images)

With Eric out of the lineup, redshirt freshman Lee has been thrust into the starting five. He sat out last season with a herniated disk in his back, but had a great summer and is averaging nearly seven boards per game to go with five points. He’s not yet a post-up player, but he’s athletic and very active inside, so he cleans up the garbage and makes those all-important hustle plays.

Off the bench, sophomore guard Aaron Brown (No. 22) is playing roughly 14 minutes per game after starting the last nine games of his freshman campaign due to Randall’s injury issues. He has been the team’s most-consistent outside shooter so far, knocking down nearly 46% of his threes. On a team that can often go cold from outside, that kind of success rate truly stands out.

The final healthy member of the Temple rotation is 6’3″ T.J. DiLeo (No. 11). While he doesn’t stuff the stat sheet, DiLeo is a very scrappy player on defense, and is often found on the floor in the scramble for loose balls. He’s actually very quick with the dribble, but typically passes it off when he approaches the lane. On the season, DiLeo has attempted only 17 shots despite appearing in every game and averaging nearly 20 minutes.

Keys to the Game

1) Knock down shots – This would seem to be a fairly simple instruction, one that would be key to winning just about any basketball game. Make your shots, win the game. But against Temple, it’s even more important that Texas drill the looks they are given. The Owls are going to sit back on defense and force the Longhorns to take jumpers. If Texas can’t even do that, Temple has no reason to adjust their D. But if the Longhorns can prove they will hit jump shots, the Owls have to play a little tighter, the Texas guards can do more on dribble penetration, and the entire offense opens up.

2) Do work on the glass – Without Eric in the lineup, the Owls are similar in size to many of the low-major teams that Texas has faced in recent weeks. Texas can overcome that staunch Temple defense by grabbing offense boards and giving themselves easier second-chance looks inside, while they can stifle that smart, patient Temple offense by dominating on the defensive glass as well. Against a team that skews towards the slower pace of play, the handful of extra shots created or prevented by rebounding can be the difference in the game.

3) Score in transition – The best way to beat a sound defense is to never let it set up in the half court. While Texas doesn’t need to try to turn this into a track meet, the Horns do need to be looking up after Temple misses and trying to score easy points. Even in situations where the fast break isn’t there, pushing the tempo could allow things to open up in the secondary break, especially with the three-point shooters that the Longhorns have on the roster.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 6:22PM

National Broadcasts (All times Eastern)

West Virginia Mountaineers (13-4, 3-2 Big East) at #12 Georgetown Hoyas (12-4, 2-2) | 7 PM, ESPN
The Hoyas are looking to start piling up wins in conference play now that the toughest stretch is behind them. Despite the league placing eight teams in the top twenty-five, the next six games for Georgetown include only one ranked opponent. The Mountaineers, unfortunately, have no such luck. After traveling to face Georgetown tonight, they will take on Pitt and Louisville before the end of January. For two teams stuck in the middle of a packed conference, this could very well be a turning point.

#18 Purdue Boilermakers (14-4, 3-2 Big 10) at #21 Minnesota Golden Gophers (16-2, 4-2) | 7 PM, ESPN2
Michigan State’s home loss to Northwestern has cracked the door open in the Big 10, and these two teams are the ones best positioned to take advantage. Sure, the Golden Gophers had their own loss to the Wildcats on Sunday, but they have the privilege of only playing the Boilermakers once — and having home court in tonight’s match-up. The Spartans, who now lead the conference by only one game, still have two-games on tap with Purdue. If Minnesota can hold home court tonight, they could reap the rewards as the other contenders knock each other off.

St. Louis Billikens (11-6, 2-1 Atlantic 10) at Temple Owls (9-7, 1-1) | 8 PM, CBS College Sports
If you’re fortunate enough to get this channel, you might be disappointed that the A-10 game on the air tonight isn’t Dayton’s visit to Foggy Bottom. But if you happen to tune into this contest between two of the conference middle-tier squads, you’ll be treated to the play of star Dionte Christmas, who is leading the way with 21 points and six boards.

St. Mary’s Gaels (17-1, 4-0 WCC) at San Diego Toreros (12-7, 4-0) | 9 PM, ESPN2
The WCC has quietly built itself into a power conference at the top, with Gonzaga still statistically ranked as one of the best teams in the land. But it’s the emergence of St. Mary’s and San Diego that have made the league stronger. San Diego crashed the NCAAs last year with a win in the conference tournament before shocking the country with a trip to the Sweet Sixteen. Meanwhile, the Gaels have earned all sorts of pub with their Australian pipeline, which has brought previously unheralded players such as Patty Mills and made them stars in the states. While this may seem like an unimportant game to the casual viewer, it’s actually a must-win if either team hopes to challenge the Zags this year.

#13 UCLA Bruins (14-3, 4-1 Pac-10) at Washington State Cougars (11-6, 3-2) | 9 PM, FSN
After stumbling early in the season against Michigan and Texas, the Bruins have quietly plugged along, having won ten straight games prior to Saturday’s overtime loss to Arizona State. The loss dropped the Bruins into a three-way tie for the league lead with Cal and Washington, who they will face this weekend. Ben Howland’s team can’t afford to look ahead to that match-up, though, as guard Taylor Rochestie lit up Oregon this weekend to the tune of 30 points. And the Cougars will certainly be fired up in front of the home crowd, as they hope to exorcise the demons of an eight-game losing streak to the Bruins.

USC Trojans (12-5, 3-2 Pac-10) at Washington Huskies (13-4, 4-1) | 11 PM, FSN
Coach Tim Floyd has brought a frustrating brand of defense to Los Angeles, which has turned the Trojans from a conference also-ran to a contender in just a few seasons. Never was that defensive transformation more apparent than Thursday night, when USC absolutely shut down Arizona State’s National Player of the Year candidate James Harden. The super soph, who has averaged 22 points per contest, was stifled by the Trojans, going 0-for-8 from the field and finishing with only four points from the line. USC will have to spread out that solid defense tonight, though, as the Huskies run a balanced attack with four players averaging double-digits in scoring.

ESPN Full Court

Not a lot to choose from on the pay package tonight, but if you want to be the guy who predicts the 14-seed upsets come March, you might get some added intel from this set of games.

Vermont Catamounts at Hartford Hawks | 7:30 PM, ESPNFC1

UW-Milwaukee Panthers at Valparaiso Crusaders | 8 PM, ESPNFC2

New Mexico State Aggies at Boise State Broncos | 9 PM, ESPNFC4