In the middle of Temple’s win against the University of Pennsylvania on Saturday, junior forward Obi Enechionyia switched shoes.
During the first half, Enechionyia wore bright red kicks, but after going 0-for-9 from the field and scoring his only two points off free throws, Enechionyia came out for the start of the second half wearing white shoes.
Whether it was the change of wardrobe or not, the forward’s game picked up significantly in the second half. He scored 10 points off five field goals, helping the Owls pick up their fifth straight win of the season.
Temple seems to be buying into the mindset of doing whatever it takes to win, whether it is switching shoes, playing freshmen or overcoming an 18-point deficit to upset a ranked team.
After losing three starters from last year’s squad and losing sophomore guard Trey Lowe to a redshirt year, Temple needed some underclassmen to step up. Senior Josh Brown was expected to be the starting point guard for the second straight year, but Brown missed the first six games of the season while recovering from Achilles tendon surgery. He returned in a limited role against St. Joseph’s on Wednesday.
Coach Fran Dunphy counted on freshman guards Alani Moore II and Quinton Rose to pick up some of the scoring in Brown’s absence. Last season, Brown averaged 8.3 points per game. This season, Moore is averaging 8.5 points per game and has started in every contest for the Owls. Rose has an average of 12.1 points each game.
“Quinton Rose is going to be a good player,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said. “He figures out how to get baskets.”
Rose was particularly productive during Temple’s two games in the National Invitation Tournament Season Tip-Off on Nov. 24 and 25. He scored 26 points in Temple’s 89-86 victory against then No. 25 Florida State University and had 12 points against then No. 19 West Virginia University. It was the first time Temple had back-to-back wins against teams Top 25 teams since 2001, when the Owls advanced to the Elite Eight.
Temple opened last season with three of its first four games against Top 25 teams, including No. 1 University of North Carolina. The Owls went 0-3 against the Tar Heels, Butler University and the University of Utah.
Enechionyia has taken on a significant role, leading the team with an average of 19.9 points per game. Not only does Enechionyia play a strong offensive game, he has increased his defensive production. He averages three blocks per game and has already pulled in 63 rebounds. Still, Dunphy recognizes the forward’s game will not always be perfect.
“He’s had a great first eight games,” Dunphy said. “It’s going to come because teams are going to be playing him differently each and every game. They’re going to double-team him, they’re going to throw their bigger guys at him. He’s got to learn to be an even better basketball player.”
Last year, Temple went 4-4 in its first eight games. This year the Owls are 6-2. With their win against Penn, the Owls are 3-0 in Big 5 play with a game against Villanova remaining. Temple finished 2-2 against Big 5 teams last season.
Sophomores guard Shizz Alston Jr., center Ernest Aflakpui, and redshirt-senior swingman Daniel Dingle have also picked up some slack. Aflakpui averages 6.5 rebounds per game. Last year, he registered only two per game in limited minutes.
“Ern’s getting better,” Dunphy said. “That’s what he needs to do. He needs to do it at both ends as well, but I thought he gave us some really good minutes.”
Maura Razanauskas can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @CaptainAMAURAca.