The men’s basketball team appeared to be headed down a dark path two weeks ago.
After blowing double-digit leads in back-to-back losses to Providence and the College of Charleston at the Puerto Rico Tip Off Classic, Temple strung together two consecutive victories against Marist and Bowling Green to crawl within a game .500. Then, they lost to Akron, 67-65, Monday night at James A. Rhodes H&PE Building.
“We were in scramble mode,” coach Fran Dunphy told reporters after the game. “It’s little bit of a misnomer that we got back in it at the end.
“We just have to be consistent. … Some of it’s them. A lot of it’s us.”
The Owls (2-4) will attempt to improve on their record when they take on Ohio (2-1), the third of four Mid-American Conference opponents on its schedule, at the Liacouras Center in their home opener Thursday.
It will be the first of a three-game home stretch for Temple. The Owls will play Towson on Dec. 6 and Villanova on Dec. 9. Temple went 9-5 at home last season.
The Owls could have used a little home-court advantage in their first three games of the season.
After losing their season opener to No. 7 Tennessee, 80-63, in Knoxville, the Owls established an 11-point lead over Providence with 9:27 left before the Friars rallied to win, 66-64, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Déjà vu struck the next day against Charleston.
In that game, the Owls blew a 25-point lead at halftime and Charleston won, 79-76, on a last second three-pointer.
Just when it seemed that the Owls’ long-awaited trip to Puerto Rico would turn into a nightmare, the Owls one-two scoring punch of senior Mark Tyndale and junior Dionte Christmas helped the squad find its winning stride in the final game of the tournament against Marist.
The tandem combined to average 38.5 points per game in the Owls’ 73-69 overtime win over Marist and 72-55 victory at Bowling Green.
Both guards are spending a considerable amount of time on the court also.
Tyndale entered Monday’s game leading the Atlantic Ten Conference in minutes played at 37.2 minutes per game and Christmas was not very far behind, at about 35 minutes per contest.
Freshman forward Lavoy Allen is also staying on the floor longer after battling foul trouble in his first three games.
After fouling out against Charleston, Allen scored a career-high 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting against Marist. He followed that performance with a 10-point, eight-rebound game against Bowling Green.
Allen and sophomore guard Ryan Brooks entered Monday’s game tied for third on the team in scoring, both averaging 7.8 points per game.
Coming off of wins against Bowling Green and Akron, the Owls will finish off the MAC-portion of their schedule with Thursday’s matchup against Ohio and a Dec. 22 contest against Eastern Michigan.
Last season, the Owls went 3-2 against MAC opponents. The men’s basketball team is required to play MAC teams as a part of the football program’s admission into the conference.
Ohio finished last season, 19-13 overall and 9-7 in the MAC. The Bobcats return three starters from last season in seniors Bubba Walther and Leon Williams and junior Jerome Tillman.
Tillman, a 6-foot-6, 235-pound forward, led the Bobcats in scoring last season, averaging 14.6 points per game. Through two games, Tillman is scoring 20.5 ppg on 59 percent shooting from the field.
Walther is averaging 19 ppg, while Williams is scoring 17 ppg and pulling down a team-high 10 rebounds per game.
The Bobcats offensive has been explosive thus far. Ohio defeated New Mexico State, 80-72, on Nov. 9 and took down Cornell, 102-89, on Nov. 19.
Whereas defense was a major concern for Temple entering the season, turnovers have been the main issue throughout the Owls’ first six games.
The Owls are 13th in the A-10 in turnovers per game, averaging 18.2 per game. Temple is also ranked 12th in assist-to-turnover ratio with a -2.60 average.
The Owls will want to cut down on those turnovers soon.
Following a home game against Towson on Dec. 6, the Owls will play Villanova at the Liacouras Center on Dec. 9 and then take on Drexel at The Palestra on Dec. 15.
Tyson McCloud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.