If there was a season in which the George Washington men's basketball team stood a chance to knock off its Atlantic 10 Conference nemesis Temple, it would seem to be this one. The Owls (2-8) are off to their worst start in Coach John Chaney's 21 seasons at the school.
But Temple is still Temple, and the Colonials (6-5), who open their Atlantic 10 schedule today at 2 p.m. at the Liacouras Center, have not had success against the Owls in a long time. Temple leads the all-time series between the schools, 44-11, and has won six straight against GW. The Colonials' last win against the Owls came in the 1998 Atlantic 10 tournament semifinals. The Colonials have yet to beat the Owls at the Liacouras Center, which opened in 1997, and have not won at Temple since Jan. 19, 1995.
Although the Owls' slow start gives George Washington hope, the Colonials know they have their work cut out for them.
"Temple is a good basketball team," GW Coach Karl Hobbs said. "They have terrific size. They play a very aggressive defense, and we've got to be able to handle their defense. More importantly, we have to try to make that game a little bit of a track meet. If we get into a half-court game against them, physically we won't have answers for them."
For years, Temple's trademark has been its matchup zone defense. But things have been going so wrong lately that the Owls were forced to abandon their vaunted zone against Wisconsin on Thursday and play man-to-man defense. The switch made little difference as the Owls lost, 80-67.
Like George Washington, the Owls start three freshmen. That inexperience, coupled with a typically difficult nonconference schedule, has caused Chaney to second-guess himself. The Owls have played seven of their 10 games on the road and have faced several highly regarded opponents, including Wake Forest, Illinois and Indiana.
"I've always played a tough schedule every year I've been here, and I'm pretty proud of it," Chaney told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "But I may have given these kids too much to chew on."
George Washington, reeling from recent losses to Old Dominion and American, has plenty of its own concerns.
"We can't go in there lightly," GW point guard T.J. Thompson said. "We have to go in there ready to play, ready to beat everybody."