Surging Tigers set sights on struggling Owls

1:46 PM, Jan 11, 2014   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Two teams heading in opposite directions will meet at the Liacouras Center on Saturday afternoon, as the 24th-ranked Memphis Tigers take on the Temple Owls in American Athletic Conference action.

Josh Pastner's Tigers are coming off one of their biggest wins of the season, as they topped defending national champion Louisville on Thursday at the KFC Yum! Center, 73-67. The win was the fourth in the last five games for Memphis and put some distance between itself and a humbling 69-53 loss at home to Cincinnati a week ago.

Fran Dunphy's Owls have struggled all season long and sit three games under .500 at 5-8, thanks to three straight losses to begin league play. Temple was also in action on Thursday and dropped an 82-75 decision to USF. The Liacouras Center has been anything but a safe haven for the Owls this season, with just one home win against four losses.

The all-time series is knotted up at 5-5, but this marks the first meeting between these two teams in nearly 14 years.

For the first time this season all five Memphis starters finished in double figures, as the Tigers picked up their first conference road win over a ranked opponent since 2005, knocking off the Cardinals by six points. Shaq Goodwin and Joe Jackson paced the team with 15 points each. Geron Johnson (13 pts), Chris Crawford (12 pts) and Austin Nichols (10 pts) got in the act as well for Memphis, which as now won 14 straight conference road games.

A strong offensive team, Memphis comes in averaging 79.9 ppg this year, doing so on .474 shooting. The Tigers enjoy positives in scoring margin (+10.4), rebounding margin (+2.8) and turnover margin (+3.7). Jackson runs the show in the backcourt and is both the top scorer (15.0 ppg) and distributor (3.5 apg) on the roster. Goodwin (12.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg) provides frontcourt balance, shooting an impressive .650 from the floor. Michael Dixon Jr. (11.0 ppg) provides depth coming off the bench for the most part.

The years of stingy defensive play seem like an eon ago for Temple, which has relied more on offense this season. The Owls are averaging 78.2 ppg, but leave themselves little room for error by allowing opponents to score 75.7 ppg. In addition, the team suffers from a -2.8 rebounding margin, with foes grabbing over 40 boards per game. Dalton Pepper has evolved into a real scoring threat this season. The 6-foot-5 senior leads the team and is fourth in the AAC in scoring at 16.7 ppg. Will Cummings is a close second and fifth in the league at 16.5 ppg, but is currently dealing with concussion-like symptoms and may not play in this game. Quenton DeCosey (15.8 ppg) and Anthony Lee (14.3 ppg) provide further scoring depth.

The Owls were once again strong on the offensive end, but couldn't stop USF in the second half, allowing the Bulls to shoot .514 from the floor over the final 20 minutes to earn the win on the road. The loss spoiled a great performance by Lee, who finished with a 22-point, 10-rebound double-double. DeCosey wasn't far behind in the scoring column with 20 points, followed by Pepper (17 pts) and Jimmy McDonnell (10 pts).

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