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Temple Heads South to UDel for Final Game of 2011

Dec 30, 2011, 3:44 PM EDT

Two nights after barely escaping a Buffalo team they were favored to beat by almost double digits, the Temple Owls (8-3) will head south down I-95 to take on the Delaware Blue Hens (5-5, 1-0 CAA) in their final contest of the calendar year.

Two nights after barely escaping a Buffalo team they were favored to beat by almost double digits, the Temple Owls (8-3) will head south down I-95 to take on the Delaware Blue Hens (5-5, 1-0 CAA) in their final contest of the calendar year.

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. and can be heard on 1210 AM.

Assorted Temple-Delaware notes after the jump…

What We Learned from the Owls Getting Buffaloed:
A distinct lack of depth under the basket was a concern even before the Owls lost starting center Michael Eric to the same patella injury that ended his junior season earlier this month. Though the original estimates had the 6-10 senior out for up to six weeks, Temple officials, including coach Fran Dunphy, hoped to have Eric back by this point in the schedule. Unfortunately, the initial six-week prognosis is looking more and more correct as the Owls now expect to be without Eric another two to three weeks.

Doing his best to fill in for the injured senior, at 6-9 the “undergirthed” redshirt freshman Anthony Lee is the only member of the Owls’ rotation over 6-6. His early foul trouble, coupled with that of the also undersized for his position Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson put Temple at a distinct disadvantage against the much larger, and surprisingly athletic bigs of the Buffalo Bulls.

While Buffalo is a better team than most would immediately recognize, the game is an all-too-worrying sign of the Owls future against offensively-skilled frontcourts. In conference, the prospects of an Andrew Nicholson or even a C.J. Aiken-Ronald Roberts combination look like impending disasters for the Owls without their starting center.

That said, even when Eric returns, the Owls will still lack depth when it comes to usable height. Nevertheless, his presence in the lineup should prevent from looking as badly exposed as they did against Buffalo on Wednesday. In the meantime, help defense and knockdown perimeter shooting will need to be the calling cards of an undersized and undermanned Temple lineup.

Getting to Know the Delaware Blue Hens:
Thankfully for the Owls, Delaware boasts a largely guard-oriented lineup and offers no one over the height of 6-9. That individual, Jamelle Hagins, is averaging a double-double off 14.3 points and 11.8 rebounds per game—numbers Temple will hope are a reflection of the fact that he’s really the Blue Hens only meaningful size. I mean, somebody has to board (right, Clarence Weatherspoon?). Still, the kid is shooting better than 50% from the field, which isn’t necessarily a given at his height.

Manning the backcourt, 6-2 sophomore Devon Saddler leads the team with 20.2 PPG, but falls way down the list when it comes to scoring efficiency, registering 38.7 FG on better than 17 shots per game.

Don’t Look ahead to Duke:
A matchup with the Duke university Blue Devils is an obvious treat for any college basketball player, but Temple needs to stay focused on the task at hand. Friday night should end with an easy road victory for the Owls, but they have already proven on multiple occasions this season that they cannot afford to take any opponent lightly. Temple’s meeting with Duke is scheduled for January 4th at the Wells Fargo Center and the Owls will do well not to think about it until after the New Year.

The Two-Year Anniversary of Rahlir HOLLIS-Jefferson’s College Debut:
The last time Temple made its way down to Delaware was for their season opener against the Blue Hens in 2009.

The Owls won what would have been a forgettable 76-56 final had it not been for the unbridled exuberance of Rahlir Jefferson’s mother seeing her son play in his very first college basketball game. I have never heard, nor will I ever hear again, a woman scream that loud or that long for any reason. It subsequently came as no surprise this year when Rahlir added the hyphenated “Hollis” to his last name in honor of all that his mother has done for him throughout his life. Cheers to Rahlir and the fam (Rondae, if you’re reading, Go to Temple).

Relevant History:
All-Time Series: Temple leads 36-6
At Delaware: Temple leads 16-1
Streak: Temple has won last 16 in a row
Last Meeting: Temple beat Delaware at the Bob Carpenter Center by a final score 76-56 in 2009. Ryan Brooks lead all scorers with 23 points and finished one rebound shy of a double-double.

We’ll see you post-game