New-look Owls to challenge Jayhawks

Temple's Jesse Morgan (3) and Devin Coleman (34) celebrate on the bench near the end of a game against Delaware on Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, in Newark, Del. Temple won 82-62. The Owls will host Kansas University tonight.

Temple's Jesse Morgan (3) and Devin Coleman (34) celebrate on the bench near the end of a game against Delaware on Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, in Newark, Del. Temple won 82-62. The Owls will host Kansas University tonight.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

— Temple’s basketball team has played 11 games this season, but the last contest is the one garnering all the attention and may be the only one that means much heading into today’s 6 p.m. game against Kansas University in Wells Fargo Center.

The Owls, who opened the season 6-4 with two of the losses to Duke (74-54) and Villanova (85-62), welcomed two new, homegrown players from Philadelphia into the lineup Thursday. Jesse Morgan, a senior transfer from UMass, and Devin Coleman, a junior transfer from Clemson, helped their new school to an 82-62 road victory over Delaware.

Now 1-0 with the duo in the lineup, the unranked Owls (7-4) appear re-energized entering today’s game against No. 10-rated KU (9-1). The 6-foot-5 Morgan hit four threes and the 6-2 Coleman three on a night Temple swished 16 of 33 from beyond the arc. Temple scored 20 points more than its season average and had eight more assists than usual.

“If they (Owls) have labored, it’s been through scoring droughts. The two guys they got eligible are scorers,” KU coach Bill Self said. “They won at Delaware by 20 after they got those guys back. They will tighten a few things up and be even better moving forward. I’ve watched tape of three, four or five of their games, but I’ll focus on that last game, more.”

Coach Fran Dunphy said he’s happy to have Morgan (13.4 ppg at UMass in 2012-13) and Coleman (5.4 ppg in one semester at Clemson last year) available.

“I think they’ll make a significant impact. They are good in just about every aspect of the game. They are good jump-shooters. They are pretty good on the defensive end. They are very competitive,” Dunphy said.

“They’ve been itching to get an opportunity to play. I think they want an opportunity to be part of the team and do whatever they can do to help us.”

He hopes the transition continues to be as smooth tonight as it was in the Delaware game.

“It’s difficult to change your dynamic in the middle of the year, and that’s where we’re going to have to pay attention,” Dunphy told csnphilly.com. “Everybody’s going to have to really buy in.”

Morgan is elated to be playing for Dunphy and the Owls.

“It’s a great feeling to be back home, playing with your teammates and friends,” he said. “Our goal is always to get the win and do whatever is necessary to get the win, beat Kansas, that is the main thing.”

Coleman said of tonight: “I’ll try to go out there and compete, play every possession like it’s my last and try to come out with a win.”

Temple, which averages 64.2 ppg (36.9 percent shooting) and allows 62.9 (39.1 percent), is led by junior guard Quenton DeCosey, who averages 14.8 points and 4.2 rebounds a game with 20 assists against 23 turnovers. Senior guard Will Cummings averages 14.5 ppg and 6.0 rpg with 41 assists, 22 turnovers.

Another transfer, former Texas Longhorn, Jaylen Bond averages 6.2 rebounds and 6.1 points.

“Our expectations are, we are going to play a good game. That’s what I want us to do,” Dunphy said. “I want us to play our best game of the year. Then we’ll do the same thing as we turn around after that and play Delaware State and the next game after that. The job is always the same, play your best, do a great job on the defensive end and make good decisions on offense.”

This marks KU’s second game in three days.

“It could help us. It probably will help us, the short turnaround,” Self said of preparing KU for stretches in the season in which his Jayhawks play a league game on Saturday and a Monday.

“Playing on the road will be hard,” Self added. “We’ve played numerous games on the road right before Christmas. Sometimes we’ve been able to get through them. Sometimes we haven’t looked very good. We’ve got to go there with the right mind-set and have some momentum going into Christmas.”

In KU’s previous road games in the Self era right before Christmas break: the Jayhawks won at Ohio State, 74-66, on Dec. 22, 2012; won at USC, 63-47, Dec. 22, 2011; won at California, 78-63, on Dec. 22, 2010; lost at Arizona, 84-67, on Dec. 23, 2008; and lost at Nevada, 75-61, on Dec. 21, 2003.

“It’s big. It’s the last game before Christmas break. We want momentum going forward after Christmas break. It’s definitely big,” KU junior Perry Ellis said.

“Everybody wants to go home to their families happy. We know we have to go there and compete. That’s what we have to do.”

KU’s players will break for the holiday after the game and gather in Lawrence for practice on the night of the 26th.

Famous aide: Former Temple standout Aaron McKie is in his first year as assistant on Dunphy’s Owls staff. McKie scored 1,650 points and was a member of three NCAA Tournament teams at Temple. He ranks sixth on the school’s all-time scoring list.

This, that: Temple appears to have turned it around after going 9-22 last year. ... KU leads the all-time series with the Owls, 8-3. The Jayhawks won the last meeting, 69-62, on Jan. 6, 2013, in Allen Fieldhouse. KU’s last loss in the series was a 75-66 setback on Dec. 22, 1995, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. KU has won three in a row in the series.

More on Jesse Morgan: Morgan enrolled at Temple in May of 2013, a month after getting kicked off UMass’ team and four months after tearing his ACL. The NCAA ruled he could play either first semester (19 games) or second of this season. He chose the latter in case the Owls make the postseason.