The Quakers will be feeling close to home Wednesday night — and not just because they are only heading over to North Broad.
Tonight at the Liacouras Center, Temple coach Fran Dunphy and his former player, Penn coach Jerome Allen, will be facing each other for the fourth time in Allen’s four years.
“You can’t be somewhere for as long as I was … and not feel a special affinity for the place and the program and everything that it is about,” Dunphy said.
But this go-around, as a transition-year Quakers team (3-14, 0-3 Big 5) takes on a dominating Temple (12-5, 1-0) squad, Dunphy will face another former player in Penn assistant coach Ira Bowman.
“Of course then you add to it [Allen, who] played for me and who I learned so much from as a person and as a player, so that’s a very special feeling for me,” Dunphy said. “And then of course now you have on staff Ira Bowman, who also played for me. They were two great guys to coach and they have become two great friends as well.”
And though the matchup between the two schools with so much history is no longer new for Dunphy — it’s been seven years since he left Penn — each year it has a different meaning.
While an Allen team came within inches of an upset in last year’s overtime loss to the Owls behind a 27-point performance by former guard Zack Rosen, this year both teams will face a new slew of challenges, including Temple’s loss of Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez and Penn’s new youthful makeup.
The Quakers have not beaten the Owls since 2007 and have only won once at the Liacorous Center.
“That year is over. It’s a pretty different team that we have, a different team that they have,” Allen said. “We respect victory and we just need to go out there an play against the 2012-2013 Temple Owls.”
Despite the loss of these two major scorers, Temple can still count on the scoring threat of Khalif Wyatt, who scored 31 points in a close loss to St. Bonaventure Saturday and will be a tough opponent for the Red and Blue to stop.
“[Wyatt]’s a scorer, so he’s going to get his points where he gets his points,” freshman center Darien Nelson-Henry said. “But we’re going to try to limit him to force him to take as many bad shots as we can and make him take tough shots over us.
“And if he scores his points but we are able to hold the other players to under their average, then I think that’s going to be one of the keys to the game.”
Coming off the loss to St. Bonaventure, the Owls will not be taking it easy on the court. Though Temple beat a No. 3 Syracuse team earlier this season at Madison Square Garden, Dunphy says his squad will need to play the best game they can, doing more with their possessions on both ends of the court.
“We have to take care of the ball and we need to make shots. I’m sure the Penn Quakers will have a lot to do in trying to impede our progress in those regards, so they’ll be ready and we better be ready as well.”
And Dunphy doesn’t think this will necessarily be an easy win for Temple, even with the absence of Fran Dougherty.
“As I’ve watched [Penn] this year, I think they are getting better,” he said. “They’re missing a big piece to it in Fran Dougherty, who’s a very, very good player and he will get back soon, but I think a kid like Nelson-Henry is really arriving at this point. He’s a big, big dude and we’re going to have to play our best in order to stop him as well.”
The Ivy League rookie of the week — who scored 17 points Saturday against St. Joseph’s — is looking forward to Penn’s Big 5 finale. Nelson-Henry believes the Quakers have an advantage in their inside game and that the guards have “more mobility on the perimeter” than the local foe.
“Pretty much everyone from Philly lets it be known before every Big 5 game how important it is, not necessarily for bragging rights but more of a pride thing,” Nelson-Henry said. “So every game in the Big 5, it’s sort of approached with a certain, not all Philly, but just a will to win.”
Associate Sports Editor John Phillips contributed reporting.