Sports

Following knee injury, DeCosey bounces back

The men’s basketball team has punched its ticket to Madison Square Garden for a NIT Final Four bout against Miami Tuesday night.

Quenton DeCosey just needed a few days.

Three, to be exact.

Prior to Temple’s second-round matchup with George Washington University in the National Invitation Tournament on March 22, DeCosey had come down hard on his left knee in practice, and clearly wasn’t himself as his team knocked off the Colonials without much of his assistance. DeCosey’s four points and 21 minutes of action that day were both the lowest he’d had in more than a month.

The junior guard received a needed dose of treatment and rest before a quarterfinal contest with Louisiana Tech last Wednesday at the Liacouras Center that the Owls ultimately won, 77-59. He felt healthier this time, and wound up sending an early message by way of the game’s first two scores – a jump shot and a 3-point shot in respective order – in his team’s final home game of the season.

“I wanted to come out [last Wednesday] aggressive because the game before that, I had limited minutes because my knee was killing me,” DeCosey said. “Coach [Fran] Dunphy wanted me to rest a little bit, so I wanted to come out last game and be aggressive.”

DeCosey picked up where he had left off before the George Washington game, netting game-highs of 21 points and 11 rebounds in 33 minutes against the Bulldogs for his first career double-double in a Temple uniform. Dating back to a Feb. 26 win against Houston at the Liacouras Center, the Union, New Jersey native had reached double figures in scoring and grabbed no less than five rebounds in each contest since, outside of his limited performance against the Colonials.

“I just try to let the game come to me,” DeCosey said. “Like I said, being aggressive. If the shot opportunity presents itself, then I’ll take it. But if it’s finding a teammate or something, then I’ll do that. I don’t press that I take the first shot, I just let the game come to me.”

A scorer by nature, DeCosey was forced to shoulder much of the offensive weight in a 2013-14 season that yielded nine Temple wins. His 12.4 points per game are down from his average of 15.4 a season ago. His 38 percent average from the floor checks in at three percentage points lower than last year’s (41 percent), and a four-game stretch in February marked his longest period without a double-digit scoring performance since his freshman season.

Since that four-game drought, however, the 6-foot-5-inch, 205-pound swingman has accumulated game averages of 13.5 points and 5.8 boards.

DeCosey’s minutes are down from a year ago, too, as the Owls received needed reinforcement from transfers Jaylen Bond (Texas), Jesse Morgan (Massachusetts) and Devin Coleman (Clemson). Temple’s rejuvenated 10-man rotation, Dunphy said, allows him to give DeCosey the occasional breather in games when needed.

“Last year, he seldom ever came out of a game,” Dunphy said. “Now, we can afford to take him out. If things weren’t going that well, just have a seat, take a look and give yourself a chance to look at the game a little bit differently.”

DeCosey’s abilities with the ball on offense helped him garner Division I offers from schools like Virginia Tech, Penn State, Seton Hall and St. Joseph’s, alongside Temple.

“If he doesn’t [drive], I’m yelling at him,” senior guard Will Cummings said. “If he catches the ball and hesitates, he’s going to hear about it on the way back to the huddle or on a dead ball or something like that. He knows he has to play aggressive for us to be good. That’s his role.”

Games including a 25-point performance against Rutgers and a 28-point outburst against Central Florida in the American Athletic Conference tournament last season as a sophomore, which remains his career-high scoring mark, helped establish DeCosey as a go-to option on offense for Dunphy’s team. His struggles to stay consistent on offense, particularly during conference play in the regular season, plagued his overall numbers and performance up until that Houston game in late February.

Since then, DeCosey has been at the forefront through most of Temple’s recent winning stretch and run to the NIT’s Final Four, which kicks off Tuesday at Madison Square Garden in New York.

“[Sometimes], it just doesn’t go in,” DeCosey said. “I just get back in the gym and just keep shooting. My motto is to keep shooting. Shoot your way out of it and stay confident.”

“I always put pressure on myself every game to come out, be aggressive and play the best game I can play,” he added. “Going into Tuesday’s game, it’s the same mindset. Just being aggressive and confident, and just trying to get my team to the championship.”

Andrew Parent can be reached at andrew.parent@temple.edu, 215.204.9537 or on Twitter @Andrew_Parent23.

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