It's a season with a lot of paybacks for the University of Cincinnati men's basketball team and Temple is among the teams on the list. UC blew a 12-point halftime lead last January in losing to the Owls 61-58 then fell behind by 14 at the break in Philadelphia last February before eventually dropping a four-point contest, 75-71.
Armed with an opening American Athletic Conference win over Tulane, coach Wes Miller's Bearcats start the 2023 leg of their journey Sunday afternoon in a city that once booed Santa Claus.
The Owls have struggled after losing 6-foot-11 sophomore Jamille Reynolds to thumb surgery. Prior to winning their AAC opener at East Carolina Wednesday, they had dropped three straight. The last was to Maryland-Eastern Shore at the Liacouras Center where Temple only mustered a 4-3 non-conference record through the 2022 portion of the schedule.
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They do own an early season 68-64 win over then-No. 16 Villanova. The loss of Reynolds takes away 11.1 points and 6.2 rebounds. Temple is coached by former Owl great and No. 1 draft pick of the Portland Trail Blazers, Aaron McKie. McKie played for the legendary John Chaney and Bearcat fans may remember him playing against Bob Huggins-coached teams in 1992 and 1993 where UC and the Owls split.
UC last won in Philadelphia in the pandemic season of 2021 under former coach John Brannen with David DeJulius hitting for 26 points in a 63-60 victory. Only DeJulius and Jeremiah Davenport remain from that team.
Tip: 3 p.m. The Liacouras Center (10,000)
Series info: Cincinnati leads 26-11
Coach: Aaron McKie (43-47 at Temple, fourth year)
Offense: 68.8 ppg
Defense: 68.7 ppg
(Player, Position, Height, Key Stat)
Nick Jourdain,( F, 6'8", 4.9 ppg)
Zach Hicks, (F, 6'8", 9.1 ppg)
Hysier Miller,( G, 6'1", 8.0 ppg)
Jahlil White, (G, 6' 7", 4.3 ppg)
Emmanuel Okpomo, ( C, 6'9", 0.0 ppg)
Coach: Wes Miller (28-19 at Cincinnati, second year)
Offense: 80.9 ppg
Defense: 69.1 ppg
(Player, Position, Height, Key Stat)
Victor Lakhin (F, 6'11", 12.9 ppg/8 rpg)
Landers Nolley II (G/F, 6' 7", 15.1 ppg)
Mika Adams-Woods (G, 6'3", 9.5 ppg)
David DeJulius (G, 6', 16.4 ppg)
Jeremiah Davenport (G, 6'7". 9.4 ppg)
Player to watch
The Butler transfer has been Temple's leading scorer since returning closer to his New Jersey home. Oddly enough, he didn't start in Wednesday night's game at East Carolina, instead coming off the bench. Still, Battle led the Owls with 18 points in their 59-57 win, 16 of those coming in the second half.
Since coming from the Bulldogs he's led the Owls in scoring for most of three seasons. Thus far, the redshirt sophomore averages 18.6 points per game. In the pandemic season for Temple, he averaged 15 points per game and upped that to 21.4 last year before suffering a season-ending foot injury Dec. 1, 2021.
Thus far he's been in double figures in all but one game with a high game of 27 against VCU on Dec. 3. He nailed six treys vs. Richmond on Nov. 22. Bearcat fans didn't see him in last season's series due to his injury. Damian Dunn, a 6-foot-5 sophomore guard who was out Wednesday in concussion protocol, also could be a factor if healthy. Dunn is Temple's second-leading scorer at 14.7 points per game.
Landers Nolley II
Nolley lit up Tulane for 23 points in the AAC opener, second only to his 33-point outburst against Arizona in the Maui Invitational when he was 9-of-14 from beyond the arc. Nolley hit five treys against the Green Wave, just as he did in UC's lone Maui win over Louisville. He was 4-of-5 vs. the Miami RedHawks and his potent moon drops often come with an equally potent pump-fake that he admits to practicing even when not guarded. In a season with Virginia Tech, two with Memphis and thus far with the Bearcats, Nolley has been a reliable scorer reaching double figures 65 times over those four seasons.
"We've talked about it since we got him, he's a major offensive threat," Miller said. "His decision-making with the ball is getting better and better. His skills as an offensive player are going to keep being more than just a great shooter and a great shot-fake guy. He's going to be a more consistent playmaker. I think he's just scratching the surface of who he's capable of being as an offensive player."
Miller says there are times when he'd rather see Nolley give it a fling rather than a shot fake due to the propensity No. 2 deposits the ball into the bucket from afar.
Keys to the game
Start fast and finish
It might be a hungover crowd on New Year's Day plus the Eagles play the Saints at Lincoln Financial Field at 1 p.m. and those in attendance might be surgically attached to their phones looking for updates. Obviously, it would behoove the Bearcats to take the extra element out of the game early.
Temple drew a little over 8,600 in the 10,000-seat Liacouras Center to start the season but many games garner just a shade over 4,000. That said, no conference road games are cupcakes as the Bearcats saw last season. Their 12-point halftime lead fizzled like the Philly whizz on a cheesesteak. UC does appear to have a size advantage with Temple's Reynolds out, so post presence from Lakhin, Ody Oguama and whomever Wes Miller plunks from the bench will be key. Temple has started 6-foot-10 Kur Jongkuch and 6-foot-9 Emmanuel Okpomo recently but they often aren't in long.
NET: Cincinnati is No. 103, Temple is No. 182
KenPom.com: Cincinnati is No. 69, Temple No. 135