The smallest player on the court hit the biggest shot of the night for Temple last Thursday.
Chris Clark, a 5-foot-8, 165-pound senior point guard, nailed a game-winning three-pointer from the left wing with 1.9 seconds left in the Owls’ 90-88 win over visiting Ohio at the Liacouras Center.
Senior guard Mark Tyndale, the Owls second-leading scorer, spotted an open Clark behind the arc after penetrating to the basket.
“I told Mark I was going to knock it down if he gave me a pass,” Clark said.
The Owls could use some of the confidence that Clark exuded while answering questions at the post-game media conference.
Since the departure of Mardy Collins in 2006, the Owls (3-4) have searched for consistency at the point guard position.
As of now, Clark, a teammate of Collins for two seasons, is sharing the duty with starting point guard Luis Guzman, a sophomore who only played in 11 games last season. The two point guards have only six career starts between them.
To this point, their individual numbers aren’t spectacular.
Through seven games, Guzman is averaging 4.9 points per game with 13 assists, while playing 17.9 minutes per contest. Clark, who has come off the bench for the majority of the season, is also averaging 4.9 points per contest with 15 assists while playing 22.5 minutes per game.
“We definitely can do a better job,” Clark said. “But I think the coaching staff and our teammates have confidence in me and Luis to go out there and play our best. I think we’re going to get the job done.”
So far, the two point guards have put the Owls in a better position than they were in earlier in the season.
The Owls committed a total of 74 turnovers, including a season-high 23 in the season opener against Tennessee, in their first four games of the season. Temple only dished out 58 assists in that same period.
Guzman received the starting nod in the Owls’ fifth game of the season against Bowling Green on Nov. 24. Since Guzman entered the starting lineup, the Owls have handed out 48 assists against 40 turnovers.
Individually, Guzman has accumulated nine assists and only three turnovers while shooting 44 percent from the field since being inserted into the starting lineup. He scored a career-high 11 points in a 67-65 loss to Akron on Nov. 26.
“Luis has been working hard all summer, going hard at practice everyday, competing against me and the other guys,” Clark said. “He’s definitely worked hard for that spot. He’s been doing a good job handling the ball under pressure. We have confidence in him.”
After the Ohio game, coach Fran Dunphy decided to reserve judgment on how his two point guards have played thus far.
“I’ll have to look at the film to really evaluate it,” Dunphy said. “But [Guzman] goes four assists with no turnovers and that’s pretty good. And Chris has no turnovers, so we’re going six assists and no turnovers from that position. I’ll take that every game.”
One thing Dunphy said he would take more of is an aggressive Clark. He said he wants to see Clark shoot the ball more, in addition to doing more of the little things.
“There are too many games where Chris’ stats are a couple of shots and no rebounds and he’s got to get every loose ball,” Dunphy said. “He’s obviously the closest guy to the floor, so why he can’t get more than that – I’m a little miffed, to be honest with you.”
“We want him to shoot the basketball,” he added. “The fact that it was his shot at the end of the game didn’t bother me a bit. I felt pretty good that it was going to go in.”
Although Dunphy expressed happiness for Clark’s success and was content with Guzman’s progress, he said he hasn’t given up on former starting point guard, Semaj Inge, a junior who started 26 games for the Owls last season.
Inge, who started the first three games of the season, has seen his playing time cut significantly in the last three games. He has averaged 2.5 minutes in the last four games and did not play against Akron.
“He’s a talented guy, he’s an inconsistent guy,” Dunphy said. “We need Semaj to play well, to give us more then he’s giving us now, so we’ll continue to work at it.”
Temple will take on Towson at the Liacouras Center Thursday at 7 p.m. in the second contest of a three-game home stretch for the Owls.
Temple will then play Villanova Sunday at 7 p.m.
Tyson McCloud can be reached at email@example.com.