After playing two close games against No. 18 Georgetown and Siena, the men’s basketball team bounced back against Ball State and won, 66-46.
The Owls (3-1) trailed only once in the game at 5-4 and increased their lead to as large as 22 points before Ball State’s redshirt freshman center Zach Fields hit a layup as time expired in the second half.
“I thought overall our defense was pretty good. We extended a lot of energy on defense,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “I thought Lavoy did a very good job guarding [sophomore forward/center Jarrod] Jones. He’s a very good player and [was] the Freshman of the Year in the [Mid-American Conference].
“I think, again, that I would credit Lavoy and Brooks for the most part,” Dunphy added. “They really take great pride in what it is they do defensively. Lavoy is seldom ever out of position and makes up for a lot of mistakes others may have. Am I surprised? With those two guys as your foundation, I’m not that surprised.”
Temple held Ball State (2-1) to just 29.6 percent shooting from the field in the second half and 38.6 percent shooting for the entire game. Despite the fact that the Cardinals outrebounded the Owls, 31-27, Temple held significant advantages in points in the paint, as well as points off turnovers, second-chance points and fastbreak points. At the half, Ball State had put up zeros in the latter three categories.
“The constant that we have is that our defense is pretty good,” Dunphy said. “I think we’re working hard at it, and we’re buying into it. Tonight, when we’re assisting on that many field goals [23 assists on 27 field goals], I’m guessing we’re making good cuts, I’m guessing we’re seeing our teammates pretty well, also. Those are the things a coach likes to see.”
Sophomore point guard Juan Fernandez, who played with a bandage on his left hand after he suffered a sprained thumb going for a loose ball in practice Monday, tied his career high in assists with five. More importantly, he contributed to the 23-to-8 assist-to-turnover ratio, as he committed no turnovers. Junior forward Lavoy Allen and senior guard Ryan Brooks broke their previous career highs in assists with seven each. Allen added 16 points and nine rebounds, narrowly missing a double-double. Brooks broke out of his slump during the prior two games to lead all scorers with 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the floor.
“He’s just a really good basketball player and a really solid guy,” Dunphy said. “He made some big shots in the first half and got us off to a solid start, and tonight, he made tremendous cuts to the basket. He got himself to the foul line as well. That’s certainly one thing we need to do more of is get ourselves to the line. There’s a knack to that. Lavoy has no foul shots. He’s got to get to the line somehow, someway. But Ryan Brooks played another solid game, and he was very solid defensively as well.”
“It all starts with defense, and defense creates our offense,” Brooks said. “When we’re playing defense like we did the majority of this game, we’re going to get easier buckets for all of us. We’ve been able to create for others and create for ourselves.
“You can’t dwell on previous games,” he added. “Once that game’s over with, you’ve just got to be able to come back and be able to execute and get the job done. It shows toughness and a willingness to fight hard. Just go out every game, and focus on that game only. Then we can move on from there.”
Game Notes: Dunphy said as the season progresses that he would prefer to use about eight players on the court, including freshman forward Rahlir Jefferson and freshman guard T.J. DiLeo…Sophomore center Micheal Eric, who finished with two points and three rebounds, played just 13 minutes after he tweaked his knee in the first half…Fernandez said he didn’t know what was going to happen until the X-rays came back negative this morning. “It was just a sprained muscle. I wanted to play. The bandage wasn’t that comfortable, for sure, but I wanted to be in there. I wanted to help my team today.”
Jennifer Reardon can be reached at email@example.com.