With a week off to ponder their upset loss to Richmond, the men’s basketball team responded in a big way.
Thanks to a record setting day shooting the ball, the No. 21 Owls won the second game of Temple’s double-header, beating Rhode Island 78-56 Saturday afternoon at the Liacouras Center.
“It was kind of a long week in a positive way,“ senior guard and co-captain Ryan Brooks. “Coach was on us all week hooting and hollering as your coach should and getting on us kind of challenging us individually and as a team. He just preached that we were going to have to come out this game more mentally and physically tougher a team than Rhode Island was.”
This is the second meeting between these two teams in a little over a month. The Owls beat the Rams in Kingston Jan. 10 in overtime, 68-64. With Temple sweeping the season series, the Owls now sit at 8-2 in the Atlantic Ten Conference which places them in a tie for second place just a half game behind Richmond and Xavier.
“Temple did a great job of attacking the bucket, getting open shots; they did a great job of shooting the basketball,” Rams coach Jim Baron said. “The first time that we played I thought we did a much better job of defending them.”
It was a record setting day on a myriad of levels for the Owls who with today’s win accomplished their third straight 20-win season which is their 31st in school history. Temple (20-5, 8-2) scored their highest point total of the season while their top-ranked defense in the A-10 held Rhode Island to their lowest scoring total of the year.
Today’s game was a complete role reversal for the Owls compared to last weekend in Richmond. Last Saturday the Spiders shot 77 percent from the field in the first half to jump out to a 44-26 lead en route to a 71-54 victory.
This afternoon, Temple shot 74 percent as they entered halftime with a 43-23 advantage. The Owls point total eclipsed their 42 points at halftime against Duquesne for their highest mark in the first half. Temple finished the game with a school-record 68.6 percent shooting percentage, two tenths a percentage point better than 93-80 victory over Rhode Island on Feb. 21, 1973.
“During the course of the game we noticed that we were shooting a very high percentage but we felt that the reason we were doing that was because we were getting good stops on defense and moving the ball on offense and pretty much getting a lot of shots we wanted,” Brooks said.
Brooks and the Owls probably wanted to forget about last weekend’s drubbing by Richmond but they had nearly a week off to think about the loss. Sophomore forward Micheal Eric said that the time off allowed the team and himself especially a chance to get back to the basics.
“A long week of practice and a lot of running,” Eric said. “I got in better shape, I had time to work on a lot of things, a lot of offensive steps with the big men coach, Coach [Sean] Trice. I just had a lot of time to work on stuff.”
Eric’s hard work paid off big time today as he scored a career-high 19 points on 9-10 shooting from the field. He added four rebounds, four assists and two blocks in 25 minutes.
“I thought we looked for Mike more than we have had in a while and he came through. He did a great job inside,“ Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “To get where he was today offensively was a nice thing for him and I’m happy for his success.”
Brooks said that it was important that the big men for the Owls got into the action early in the game. Junior forward Lavoy Allen also contributed inside with 17 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four blocks.
“I think we did a great job of moving the ball,“ Brooks said. “Our inside players, Micheal and Lavoy, did a great job of finishing early and setting the tone and they really got the crowd into it and us into it. They did a great job of starting us and motivating us to play well.”
“I think our assistant coaches do a great job of grabbing him every chance they get and Mike I think is starting to understand that coming a half hour early and staying a half hour late and working on your game can be a real asset to how you play,” Dunphy said.
Dunphy is hoping that Eric will transform into a reliable asset down low for the Owls on a nightly basis. Eric missed four games earlier in the season and has been bothered by his knee which keeps him around 15-20 minutes a game. Eric says he’s healthy and is ready to make a big contribution the rest of the way.
“They need somebody to be more aggressive in the paint so they can have open shots on the wing,” he said. “I think that’s what I’m bringing and they’re trusting me and I have to produce for them so they can trust me more.”
There is also is some faith in knowing that if one player has an off night that another will surely step in and take over the scoring load. Brooks, who went 1-8 with just two points (his lowest total of the season) at Richmond, responded by shooting 7-8 for 18 points while knocking down all four of his three-point attempts. Sophomore guard Ramone Moore, starting his second game in place of sophomore guard Juan Fernandez, scored 12 points on 6-9 shooting. Moore has reached double digits in points in each of the last four games.
The Rams (19-5, 7-4) were unable to get anything going on the offensive side of the ball. Only three players, senior guard Keith Cothran, junior forward Delroy James and freshman guard Akeem Richmond, reached double figures. Cothran was averaging a team-high 15.6 points a game. Senior forward Lamonte Ulmer, who came into the game averaging 12 points and seven rebounds, was held to just six points on 2-9 shooting.
“We were able to kind of get back to square one a little bit and clean up some things,” Brooks said. “Tonight we came out with a very good start and hopefully we can keep this going.”
The Owls are back in action Wednesday when they travel to St. Bonaventure (10-13, 3-7 A-10). Next Saturday, Temple travels to the Palestra to battle Big 5 rival Saint Joseph’s (9-15, 3-7 A-10).
Pete Dorchak can be reached at email@example.com.
Game Notes: Temple mascot, Hooter the Owl, celebrated his birthday this afternoon. The Philly Phanatic, Flyers Girls and Temple’s T-Bird were all in attendance… Today’s attendance was announced at 7,080… With the win, Temple leads the series, 53-15, and has won the previous three meetings.