Big 5, Big Game

A Big Five title is on the line Thursday night when the Temple men's basketball team hosts La Salle. NCAA Tournament bids and Atlantic 10 seeding might hang in the balance as well when the Owls host their cross-town rivals and try to add to a seven-game winning streak against the Explorers.

A Big Five title is on the line Thursday night when the Temple men's basketball team hosts La Salle.

NCAA Tournament bids and Atlantic 10 seeding might hang in the balance as well when the Owls host their cross-town rivals and try to add to a seven-game winning streak against the Explorers.

Temple's up-and-down season took a tick up when the Owls won, 83-82, at Massachusetts last Saturday – playing in the program's fifth-straight one-point game. No matter the score a win over the Explorers Thursday would mean a lot in a number of different areas.

"We had another interesting week and have another one coming up," said Dunphy. "This league is great, and there's a lot of very good teams. Playing La Salle and at Charlotte Sunday is as much of a challenge as you want and need.

"I don't know the one-point thing has anything to do with (added stress). You want to play well every possession, and the last five have been very close games. Every possession is critical. It doesn't come down to the last shot, it's that possession in the first half you took a bad shot, they went down and hit a three and it's a five or six-point turnaround."

Temple is 17-8 overall, 6-5 in the A-10, 2-1 in the Big 5 and 48 in the RPI. La Salle is 3-0 in the Big 5, along with 18-6 overall, 8-3 in the Atlantic 10 and 35 in the RPI - numbers which have the Explorers on the verge of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in two decades.

La Salle hasn't won an outright city series title since 1990 and hasn't been to the NCAA Tournament since 1992. Meanwhile, the Owls will be trying to create a tie for their 28th Big 5 crown and take a big step towards a sixth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

"I think the NCAA Tournament is big for everybody, and it's big for us because we haven't been there for a while," admitted La Salle coach Dr. John Giannini. "It can validate your program, but we have to have it in the back of our mind so that we're focused on the next opponent.

"We've built it up gradually, we didn't skip any steps, and we know we can't take games for granted. The hardest part is dealing with very well-meaning people acting like we'll make it for sure. But those people don't have to guard Khalif Wyatt or front Scootie Randall in the post."

Perhaps no two players are currently performing at a higher level in the Atlantic 10 than Temple guard Wyatt, who is averaging over 25 points per game over the last 11, and La Salle's Ramon Galloway, who is averaging over 17 points per game and according to his coach is executing the other parts of his game better.

Wyatt and Galloway are the reigning co-players of the week in the Big 5.

"I think the key with Ramone is when he passes the ball extremely well," said Giannini. "He's a proven scorer and defender, he has excellent physical abilities, and when he starts to make our offense more productive, he becomes a tremendously special player. He's always been a good scorer, but when he passes the ball, he's a complete player with a lot of talents."

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