With a little more than a minute remaining in Temple’s 84-78 victory against the University of Central Florida Sunday afternoon, sophomore guard Josh Brown dribbled his way out of the Knights’ full-court press, finding an open Jaylen Bond down the right-hand side of the court.
The junior forward caught the pass and proceeded to stuff home a dunk, pushing the Owls’ lead to 78-65 with 1:03 remaining. It was a fitting reward for the Philadelphia native, as the bucket capped a career-high 21-point performance to go along with 14 rebounds.
Bond said the key for his recent success has been staying aggressive on both the offensive and defensive ends.
“I’m just trying to get more comfortable within the offense,” Bond said. “I’m just trying to be aggressive on both ends of the court … so I feel like I’m playing towards my strengths right now, which is getting easy points and rebounds.”
Bond was able to grab six offensive boards during the game, with a couple leading to easy putbacks. Senior guard Will Cummings said that Bond’s performance on Sunday is a product of the junior’s work ethic during practice.
“You can see glimpses of all the stuff he did today in practice,” Cummings said. “Running the floor, getting tip-ins. You can’t keep him off the offensive glass in practice, so we expect him to do the same things in games.”
Cummings and Bond each led Temple with 21 points apiece, which were key performances given that senior guard Jesse Morgan only scored five points Sunday after posting a 17-point performance against UConn. The product out of Philadelphia shot two of ten from the field, including one of six from beyond the arc.
Coach Fran Dunphy said that Morgan tends to be a streaky player, and Sunday’s performance was simply an off-day for the senior guard.
“Jesse’s just one of those streaky guys,” Dunphy said. “I wouldn’t have been surprised if he hadn’t knocked a couple of threes down the stretch, to be honest.”
After a back-and-forth game in the opening minutes, the Owls took a 38-26 lead into halftime after closing the opening 20 minutes on an 11-2 run. Bond has 13 points and nine rebounds heading into the intermission.
The Knights climbed their way back in the second half, opening it with a 7-0 run. Freshman forward Obi Enechionyia – who started his first game of the season in place of junior forward Devontae Watson – scored his only bucket of the contest to end UCF’s run.
But the Knights’ three-point shooting allowed them to remain within striking distance for most of the second half. After shooting two of nine from beyond the arc in the first half, UCF made seven of eleven three-pointers in the second half, finishing the game at a 45 percent clip from three-point land.
Dunphy said his defense’s performance was “pretty good,” with the exception of guarding the three-point line during most of the second half. He added that some of that had to do with UCF’s Daiquan Walker, a junior guard out of Philadelphia who scored 17 points, including three three-pointers on six attempts from beyond the arc.
“Walker did a really good job for [UCF],” Dunphy said. “As a Philly kid you knew he was going to try and come in here and make a statement, and he did a good job.”
The Knights did end up trimming the Owls’ lead to six by the game’s conclusion, mostly due to their three-point shooting and a couple fast-break layups in the closing minutes.
Another player Dunphy thought was key was Brown, who scored 14 points in 18 minutes of action. He said Brown’s effort on the defensive end has been important.
“He’s really playing well,” Dunphy said. “He plays the [opponent’s] point guard when we’re going through the motions of how the opposition’s going to play us … he never wavers [from it] … That’s what he does, he doesn’t care about him, he cares about [the team].”
As Morgan and junior guard Devin Coleman become more acclimated to Temple’s system, Dunphy said getting everybody minutes and continuing to improve will remain a challenge.
“You’re trying like crazy to get as many minutes as possible [for everybody],” Dunphy said. “I’m working through it, we’re all working through it. As long as we’re sitting here at the end of the day after a win, I’m OK … But we all have to realize our roles a little bit better as we go through the rest of the season.”
Temple (11-4, 2-0 The American) will look to extend its winning streak to six games when it travels to New Orleans to face Tulane at 7 p.m. Wednesday night.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Steve_Bohnel.