Temple University’s men’s basketball team rode a strong second half to win its third consecutive season-opener Tuesday.
At halftime, Temple and La Salle were tied. The Owls gained the lead on a dunk from sophomore forward De’Vondre Perry. They maintained this lead in the second half to land a 75-67 win at the Liacouras Center.
La Salle led for more than 14 minutes in the first half and led by as many as nine points. Both teams struggled to score, as the Owls recorded a 34.6 shooting percentage while the Explorers’ shot 32.1 percent.
Temple stayed in the game, as it out-rebounded La Salle 20-14 during the first half. Once it started to match the Explorers’ intensity, the Owls got themselves back into the game.
Pierre-Louis said the first half was an “adjustment period” for the Owls.
“It’s our first game, we needed to get into a rhythm,” Pierre-Louis said. “I thought we did a good [job] when we got out of that hole after a little adversity.”
“The first half, we were just getting our feet wet to start the game,” senior guard Shizz Alston Jr. said. “Once we got settled in, in the second half, that’s our real team this year. Running transition, rebounding, pushing the pace, things like that, that’s how we are gonna be this year.”
After taking a seven-point lead five minutes into the second half, the Owls led by six points or more for the remainder of the game.
Pierre-Louis committed one of Temple’s 15 turnovers with one minute, 40 seconds remaining, allowing La Salle redshirt-junior guard Traci Carter to cut Temple’s lead to six.
On the following possession, Alston “rescued” the Owls, coach Fran Dunphy said. He hit a fadeaway jump-shot with the shot-clock expiring, giving Temple an eight-point lead with one minute left to ice the game.
Dunphy, who will step down as head coach at the end of this season, said despite the win, the team has “a lot to work on,” citing the Owls’ 15 turnovers.
“We turned it 15 times, which is never going to be good enough,” Dunphy said.
The Owls dominated the boards because of their height advantage over the Explorers.
La Salle sophomore center Miles Brookins was the team’s only player taller than 6 feet, 8 inches on Tuesday. Temple had four players — junior guard Quinton Rose, sophomore forward Justyn Hamilton and centers senior Ernest Aflakpui and junior Damion Moore — who are at least 6 feet, 8 inches.
La Salle was forced to use a guard-heavy lineup to compete with the Owls’ big men for rebounds, which reflected in the box score.
Temple out-rebounded La Salle 50-28 and had 11 second-chance points on 15 offensive rebounds. Aflakpui and Moore combined for 13 rebounds, while Hamilton added three.
Pierre-Louis, who is 6 feet, 4 inches, and junior guard Alani Moore II contributed to the Owls’ rebounding efforts, with 13 and four rebounds respectively.
“That’s the strength of Temple’s team,” La Salle coach Ashley Howard said. “They have a lot of big, strong, athletic bodies, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did what they did to us to other teams throughout the course of the year.”
La Salle shot 33.3 percent on 3-point attempts. The Owls still need to get better at defending the 3-point shot, Dunphy said.
“The numbers weren’t good for us defensively,” Dunphy added. “We wanted to push the tempo a little bit, but we didn’t want to give up as many threes as we did today.”
Temple will play the University of Detroit Mercy on Friday at the Liacouras Center.