NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The Owls practiced for their allotted 40 minutes Thursday evening at the Bridgestone Arena in preparation for a second round NCAA Tournament match up with the play-in game winner South Florida Bulls.
Although the practice appeared to be nothing more than a typical pre-game shoot around, the fifth-seeded Owls made it evident during its press conference earlier on Thursday that they weren’t going to take the 12th-seeded Bulls lightly. The game will tip-off at 9:50 p.m on Friday (TNT broadcast).
Friday’s game will feature the Owls’ first meeting with the Bulls in program history, but coach Fran Dunphy told the media that he has been following South Florida’s play in the Big East Conference this season.
“I thought they were a really terrific defensive basketball team, who took care of the ball in pretty good fashion and great control of games; most teams played at their pace,” Dunphy said. “And then last night, obviously they defended very well, but they also made shots, and made a ton of them early and got a sizeable gap between they and California. I just thought they were on their game last night.”
Graduate center Micheal Eric said South Florida appears similar to an opponent that Temple faced earlier in the year at the 5 Hour Energy Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
“I think they remind me of Wichita St., [South Florida] has depth with the guards and scoring abilities from the wings” Eric said. “It’s going to be an interesting game.”
The Owls defeated Wichita St. in overtime, 78-74.
South Florida is led by 6-foot 10-inch senior forward Augustus Gilchrist who averages 9.6 points per game.
The Bulls have four other players who average at least eight points. Senior guard Hugh Robertson averages 6.7 points per game and is the team’s leader in field goal percentage at 52.7 percent.
Wyatt took several shots during the practice that looked like he was anticipating shooting over the length of the Bulls.
Temple will be facing a South Florida defense that shutdown California in the first round game on Wednesday night, as they went onto win 65-54. The Bulls held the Bears to 13 first half points and to 5-of-24 shooting.
“We’re going to have to move the ball, be patient and move without the ball too,” senior guard Juan Fernandez said. “And play as a team more than ever on offense, if we’re going to break them down.”
The Owls will look to make it two consecutive years in which they make it past the second round, as last year then-No. 7 Temple defeated No. 10 Penn State, 66-64 at Tucson, Ariz. in the NCAA Tournament. Temple’s run ended in 2011 when they lost to No. 2 San Diego State in double overtime, 71-64.
“This is our [seniors’] last go-around, as far as we’re going to make it, it would be great to make it to the Elite Eight.,” redshirt-senior guard Ramone Moore said. “But, we don’t want to try to look too far ahead.”