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Former Temple great returns to join Fran Dunphy’s coaching staff

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Temple head coach Fran Dunphy has added an assistant to his coaching staff, and the addition is very familiar with the tradition of Temple basketball. Aaron McKie, who played three years at the school under John Chaney, was officially announced as Dunphy’s newest assistant on Thursday. With McKie on board Dave Duke, who was an assistant last season, moves into the role of director of player development.

During his three seasons as a player at Temple, McKie scored 1,650 points and was a member of three NCAA tournament teams. He currently ranks sixth on the school’s all-time scoring list. With McKie’s storied career at Temple, not to mention a lengthy NBA career, his voice will be an important one as the Owls look to rebound from what was the worst season in school history (9-22 record).

“Aaron McKie is not only Temple Basketball, but he is Philadelphia Basketball,” Dunphy said in the release. “His name still resonates in the city, as he played his high school, college and professional ball in Philly.  He is a tremendous representative of Temple University and possesses an astute basketball mind which will serve to help the program in so many ways.”

The expectation throughout the spring was that a Temple alum would be joining Dunphy’s staff, with the person in question being Rick Brunson. One reason that was expected to occur was the fact that Brunson’s son Jalen is one of the best players in the Class of 2015, and Temple is one of the finalists on Jalen’s list. However that potential hire fell through, with Rick running into legal trouble in July.

McKie is a good hire, given the experience mentioned above. In addition to Chaney he also played for Larry Brown, with Brown being the head coach of an Allen Iverson-led Philadelphia 76ers team that reached the NBA Finals in 2001. During that season McKie was named NBA Sixth Man of the Year, and he played eight of his 13 professional seasons in Philadelphia.

If McKie can use his experience to help the current Owls develop into better players, the program shouldn’t endure another season like the 2013-14 campaign.

Duke knocks off No. 13 Louisville in first game of critical four-game stretch

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Grayson Allen scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half and Brandon Ingram added 18 points, 10 boards and four assists as Duke picked up a critical win over No. 13 Louisville in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday night, 72-65.

A call this a critical win for the Blue Devils because it kicks off what may be the most important two-week stretch of Duke’s schedule This weekend, the Blue Devils square off with No. 9 Virginia. Next Wednesday, they’re at the Dean Dome to take on No. 7 North Carolina. Four days after that, they head to the Bluegrass State to pay a visit to Louisville.

 

With the way that Duke has been struggling on the defensive end of the floor without Amile Jefferson, that’s a stretch that could derail Duke’s season; entering Monday, all four of those games were losable. But a four-game winning streak — or even going 3-1 in that stretch — could completely change the tenor of what has been a fairly disappointing year for the defending champs, and that’s before they get Jefferson back to 100 percent.

And the difference was defensively, at least in the first half.

I’ve written in this space a number of times about how opponents know what they’re going to get from Duke defensively. Coach K, traditionally, plays half court man-to-man defense, switching every exchange — ball-screen, off-ball pick or simply when two players run by one another — that doesn’t involve the center. In recent years, he’s played some zone in situations where he defense has struggled or, like this season, when he doesn’t have the depth to risk foul trouble. We’ve even seen some 2-2-1 pressure from him of late.

But on Monday night, Duke played straight man-to-man for much of the game, and in the first half, it seemed to fluster the Cardinals. They scored just 24 points in the first 20 minutes, and while Louisville did find a way to break Duke down defensively in the second half — they shot better than 55 percent from the floor after the break — but part of the reason Duke was able to win this game was the lead they built. After a three from Allen opened scoring in the second half, the Blue Devils were up by 14, and while Louisville made a run down the stretch, they could never get control of the game.

Duke is becoming appointment viewing for basketball nerds like me that pay too much attention to X’s-and-O’s to see what kind of wrinkle Coach K is going to put in to try and compensate defensively, so I’m not sure that this performance sticks. But it is worth noting that this was the first time in eight games the Blue Devils gave up less than 1.0 PPP, and the first time since Dec. 19th they did so against an NCAA tournament-caliber team.

As far as Louisville is concerned, you have to tip your hat to those kids. They played their hearts out and fought back from a big deficit in one of the toughest places in the country to play. They did all that three days after their school ripped their hearts out with an NCAA tournament ban for this season.

So good for them. You never know how a team is going to react to something like that, but the Cardinal players showed that they have some serious fight in them.

Iowa State’s starting center Jameel McKay remains suspended

Iowa State forward Jameel McKay celebrates on the court at the end of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 82-77. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Steve Prohm announced on Monday that starting center Jameel McKay will not be in the lineup on Wednesday when the Cyclones take on Texas Tech.

“He’ll practice today because I want him in practice,” Prohm said, “but game-wise, he’s suspended.”

McKay did not make the trip to Stillwater with the team on Saturday, where Iowa State beat Oklahoma State, 64-59. Prohm has not gotten into specifics regarding the cause of McKay’s suspension, but it’s reportedly an issue with the way he has been practicing. McKay is dealing with a nagging knee injury, which may play a role in the situation as well.

“My hope is he’ll be with us on Saturday,” Prohm said.