Sometimes in basketball, not having the smallest man on the court can be devastating to a team. The Temple Owls 12-6 (3-2) are realizing what that feeling’s like, falling to SMU 13-4 (4-1) 60-55 on Wednesday with their 6-foot-2 senior captain Will Cummings visibly not himself the court.
Cummings scored just one point in 27 minutes of action, along with five assists and two steals. He suffered a strained muscle in his lower left leg which forced him to leave Saturday’s 63-56 loss to Tulsa and it limited his usually explosive play against the Mustangs.
“I think he tried his best to give his maximum effort,” said Temple coach Fran Dunphy of Cummings Wednesday. “He’s probably not going to be as explosive as he normally is without rest. Hopefully we’ll get a couple minutes out of him on the practice court on Friday. But, he did a pretty good job on the defensive end tonight.”
Cummings left Saturday’s game against Tulsa with a commanding 35-24 lead. With Cummings out, the Golden Hurricane went on a 19-1 run to sink the Owls. Cummings leads the team in assists (3.9) per game and is second on the team in points (13.6), rebounds (4.7) and steals (1.6). Even at 50 percent, having him back on the court Wednesday meant a lot to his teammates, such as guard Jesse Morgan.
“He wasn’t himself, but he did a great job as a leader,” said Morgan. “He came out and showed us his courage and who he is as a person. He played through it and we look up to him.”
Temple hopes to have Cummings at full strength on Saturday against Cincinnati. They’ll need all the offense they can get as the Bearcats rank sixth in the country in points allowed, giving up just 54.7 per game.
“It’s a hard stretch,” said Dunphy. “You saw Tulsa with a big win over Connecticut, they’re good. Obviously SMU’s good and Cincinnati will be like trying to get blood from a stone in trying to score against those guys. We’re going to really have to manage that game, but that’s the challenge.”
Saturday’s game against Cincinnati will air at 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU.
SMU’s Larry Brown praises his former player
Temple’s Aaron McKie, an assistant coach for the Owls was Sixth man of the year with the 76ers over a decade ago. And his former coach was happy to see him on the bench Wednesday night when SMU came to town.
“I don’t enjoy these games,” SMU head coach Larry Brown said. “I have so much respect for Fran [Dunphy] and then I see Aaron [McKie] out-dressing the head coach. That kind of pissed me off. To come back to Philly and to see people you admire and like, I was just hoping this game would get over with. … [Aaron’s] the best teammate you can ever have. I had [Aaron], Kevin Ollie, Eric Snow and George Lynch, ask Allen Iverson what he thinks of those guys. If you play for coach [John] Chaney, you have a pretty good pedigree right there, and now you’re with Fran? [Aaron’s] special. He’s in a good place right now.”