Game Preview: NIT Semis- Temple vs. Miami (FL)

Written By Tom Hanslin  @tomhanslin

After the Owls’ 77-59 victory over Louisiana Tech in the National Invitation Tournament quarterfinals last Wednesday, Temple now faces the Miami Hurricanes Tuesday evening at Madison Square Garden in one of two semifinal match ups.

The winner will advance to the NIT Championship game that is set for Thursday night, and will face the winner of the other semifinal contest between Old Dominion and Stanford.

Miami (24-12), finished sixth in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a record of 10-8, missing out on the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season. Hurricanes’ head coach Jim Larranaga currently holds an overall record of 90-48  in his fourth year at Miami.

The Hurricanes were defeated by Notre Dame 70-63 in the second round of the AAC tournament, and earned a No. 2 seed in the NIT bracket. In the first three rounds, Miami defeated North Carolina Central, Alabama, and Richmond to reach the semifinals.

In competitive AAC play, Miami defeated Duke 90-74 at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Jan. 13, and also defeated North Carolina State (65-60) and Syracuse (66-62) in a three-day span during mid-January. The Hurricanes concluded the regular season with a record of 3-6 against nationally ranked opponents.

Miami’s offensive star has been shooting-guard Sheldon McClellan. The 6-foot 5-inch junior averages 14.4 points per game, along with a 49.3% field goal percentage. Angel Rodriguez, the Hurricanes’ second leading scorer (11.9 PPG) and back court partner to McClellan, will miss his third consecutive game due to a nagging right wrist sprain he initially suffered last month against North Carolina.

Miami averages 68.6 points per game, while limiting opponents to 63.4 points, largely in credit to 7-foot junior Tonye Jekiri’s effort on the boards with 10.1 rebounds per game.

Temple (26-10) has won three consecutive games with wins over Bucknell, George Washington, and Louisiana Tech as a No. 1 seed in the NIT. The Owls finished in fourth place with a record of 13-5 in American Athletic Conference play, and also missed out on the NCAA tournament for the second straight season under head coach Fran Dunphy.

Temple finished the regular season with a 1-3 record against nationally ranked opponents, but defeated Cincinnati and swept both Connecticut and Memphis in conference play. The Owls were eliminated by Southern Methodist in the AAC tournament semifinals.

Temple’s leading scorer is senior guard Will Cummings, averaging 14.9 points a game, while junior Quenton DeCosey sits at 12.4 and Jesse Morgan with 12.1 in a close third place. The Owls’ currently average 66.1  points per game, but limit opponents to only 61.2. Temple’s defensive prowess is lead by junior forward Jaylen Bond, who averages eight rebounds a game. The Owls also average approximately seven steals against opponents. Temple finished with a 17-2 record at the Liacouras Center this season, the most wins ever recorded at home in the program’s history.

The Owls are 3-3 in neutral-site games this season, and hold an all-time record of 42-32 at Madison Square Garden. Temple’s last game at MSG was in December of 2012, as the Owls defeated Syracuse 83-79.

Tuesday night will mark the fourth all-time match up between Temple and Miami, their first in nearly ten years. In those previous three games, the Owls were victorious twice.

WHAT’S ON TAP: NIT Semifinals- Temple (26-10, 13-5) vs. Miami (24-12, 10-8), March 31, 2015, 7:00pm.

TV: ESPN, WATCH ESPN  RADIO: WHIP Temple Radio (pregame coverage begins at 6:30), WPHT 1210AM

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