One by one, Temple’s 3-point bids met orange-coated steel, or traveled through the air inside the Liacouras Center only to touch the floor – or the opposition’s grasp.
Although the men’s basketball team salvaged an eventual 70-56 win against Long Island University-Brooklyn Sunday afternoon, the Owls got off the mark in sluggish fashion. The team missed its first eight attempts from 3-point range and finished the first half with a 1-for-15 mark from deep to go along with its 10-for-30 shooting average from the floor, heading for the locker room in the midst of a five-point deficit against the winless Blackbirds.
LIU-Brooklyn, a team the Owls defeated 101-65 last December, netted 41.9 percent of its attempts from the floor on 13-of-31 shooting in the game’s opening period, and took advantage for six points on the fast break, including an uncontested lay-in off a missed dunk by junior forward Jaylen Bond that ricocheted off the rim out near halfcourt.
“I think everybody kind of realized you can’t just walk up to the court and get wins,” senior guard Will Cummings said. “They came out more aggressive than us, more ready than us in the first half and we took it for granted, thinking we were just going to roll out there and win. The mood in the locker room was guys kind of understood it and went out there ready in the second half.”
In that second half, the Owls utilized a 2-3 zone that helped limit the Blackbirds to 26.7 percent shooting, while Temple slowly pulled away on 16 of 37 shooting (43.2 percent) en route to its fourth victory of the season.
Temple’s 38.8 percent shooting average from the floor on Sunday was a marginal improvement from its prior season mark of 34.2 percent, which had the Owls ranked 336th – or ninth from the bottom – in Division I before Sunday.
“We’re going to have struggles sometimes on offense. We’re going to sometimes have great offense,” Cummings said. “It’s just basketball and the flow of the game. But you have to make shots.”
The Owls stumbled on the previous Tuesday, too, when they nearly spoiled the 10-point lead they had held minutes earlier in a 76-67 win against the University of Pennsylvania, another squad that had yet to win a game entering the contest at the Liacouras Center. Temple shot 44.6 percent in that game, but allowed Penn a 44.4 percent field-goal percentage, the Owls’ highest mark allowed in a young season that has featured high-powered opposing offenses like those of No. 4 Duke, Louisiana Tech and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
In a three-week span starting Wednesday, when Temple faces St. Joseph’s at Hagan Arena, the Owls will visit the Palestra at Penn’s campus to face La Salle on Saturday before hosting a 6-1 University of Towson team on Dec. 10, facing No. 12 Villanova at the Pavilion and a meeting with No. 11 Kansas at Wells Fargo Center on Dec. 22 after playing the University of Delaware on Dec. 18.
After watching his team connect on 4 of 26 attempts from 3-point range against LIU-Brooklyn, a team that allowed 15 long-range baskets to the Owls last season, coach Fran Dunphy said that while he initially wasn’t concerned his team would take the Blackbirds lightly, he knows the group is in no position to assume victory before an opening tip-off.
“Obviously [there were] a couple possessions that we had in the first half where we allowed those open [3-point shots] that we can’t allow, and so there was a little bit of that thought that was creeping in,” Dunphy said. “But, we’re not good enough to be taking anyone, anything or anybody for granted.”
Andrew Parent can be reached at email@example.com and on twitter @Andrew_Parent23