The men’s basketball team gave a performance that left no fan at the Liacouras Center famished Wednesday night.
The Cherry-and-White adorned fans in the student section roared after the Owls put the finishing touches on an 80-64 win over visiting Penn Wednesday night. The Owls final point tally ensured every fan at the 10-year-old arena a free taco from Qdoba.
Obviously, the Owls (9-8, 2-1 in the Atlantic Ten Conference, 1-1 Big 5) were in a giving mood last night.
Buoyed by a quick start, Temple provided second-year coach Fran Dunphy with his first victory over his former squad. The Owls lost Dunphy’s first encounter with his old team, 76-74, at the Palestra last season.
“I’m pretty sure in his mind he wanted this game more any other game,” junior guard Dionte Christmas said referring to Dunphy, who attained a 310-163 record during his 17-year tenure with the Quakers (5-12, 0-4 Big 5).
With the victory, the Owls are now on a season-high three-game winning streak.
Christmas, who entered Wednesday’s game tied with Charlotte’s Leemire Goldwire as the A-10’s leading scorer, led the Owls with 24 points, four points above his average. Senior guard Mark Tyndale tallied 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Freshman forward Lavoy Allen scored eight points and pulled down nine rebounds, while sophomore guard Ryan Brooks added 15 points off the bench, the sixth time he’s posted double-digits this season.
“Teams are going to learn to respect him in the future,” Tyndale said.
The Owls didn’t waste any time grabbing control of the contest.
Temple nailed four of their first five three-point attempts to establish an early 14-1 lead that they would build on throughout the first half. The Owls entered intermission with a 41-22 advantage. Penn shot only 32 percent in the first stanza.
The Quakers, who were paced by freshman forward Tyler Bernardini’s team-high 16 points, couldn’t close the double-digit gap in the second half, despite several small runs.
“Starting the game, we weren’t confident,” Penn coach Glen Miller said. “I felt we had opportunities in the first half to hang around and we didn’t take advantage of it.”
The opportunities may have been there in the first half, but there were very few.
The Owls went 14-of-25 from the field and hit 8-of-12 shots from beyond the arch before intermission.
Christmas and Tyndale combined to score 19 of the Owls’ 41 first-half points.
“We can’t do good things without these two guys being focused each and every time we play the game,” Dunphy said of the duo. “It just disappoints me when we lose our focus sometimes.”
Dunphy said the Owls lost their focus at times in the second half when Penn outscored them, 42-39. However, Temple had built a sizeable enough lead to avoid a large-scale meltdown.
Unlike last season, Dunphy didn’t have to field as many questions about coaching against his former team after the contest. But, when he did talk about Penn, he had nothing but praise for the basketball program and the university.
“Whenever I see Penn, I think good things,” Dunphy said. Penn is 27-20 under Miller.
“I would say that they’re going to be a very good basketball team very soon.”
Sophomore guard Luis Guzman left the game after falling hard on his right hip with one minute, seven seconds left in the first half. He returned to the bench in the second half but didn’t enter the game for the remainder of the contest.
“Luis is struggling,” Dunphy said. “We’ll know better tomorrow but it looks like a hip pointer of sorts. I don’t know how that will affect his play on Saturday or for next week as well.”
Guzman is averaging 5.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game for the Owls this season.
The Owls will host another Big 5 rival, St. Joseph’s, at the Liacouras Center Saturday at 6 p.m.
The Hawks (11-5, 3-1 A-10, 1-0 Big 5) defeated visiting Massachusetts, 81-77, Wednesday night.
St. Joe’s holds a four-game winning streak over Temple and has won 11 of the last 12 contests in the series.
Tyson McCloud can be reached at Tyson@temple.edu.