Temple coach John Chaney strained to speak in his press conference after last night’s home game against Rhode Island.
For starters, the Owls were missing their starting forward, freshman Antwayne Robinson, who injured his ankle over the weekend against N.C. State.
With that, Chaney was forced to insert sixth-man Brian Polk into the starting lineup for the first time this season.
Polk likes to shoot a lot, and with that came excessive screaming.
Another reason could have been that if the Owls could knock off the Rams, they’d inch closer to second place in the Atlantic 10 East Division and closer to a first round bye in A-10 Tournament.
On top of that, there was about 20 inches of snow on Chaney’s driveway; another challenge he’s been facing the past three nights.
But if Temple could have played a bit closer to Chaney’s home in Mount Airy, the teams’ hot shooting just might have been enough to soften the ice and snow, making a smoother shovel for the 70-year old coach.
The Owls shot 47.9 percent from the floor in their 69-64 win over the Rams last night at the Liacouras Center.
Rhode Island, on the other hand, couldn’t make the shots when they counted the most, shooting a respectable 43 percent from the field but a lackluster 8-for-26 from behind the arc.
“They just throw up three’s – everybody throws up three’s against us – they just see zone and think this is a three-point shooting night,” Chaney said.
“At least my guys feel guilty. These guys had no guilt at all. They just throw them up.”
The game featured 10 lead changes.
Rams forward Lazare Adingono led Rhode Island with 15 points and seven rebounds, and hit three of his six attempted three-pointers.
Polk showed how valuable he is off the bench and in the starting lineup, scoring a team-high 15 points and adding six rebounds and two steals.
He made 4-for-6 behind the arc.
Polk ended the first half with a three-pointer to cut the Rams deficit to 33-31.
Then at the cusp of the second half he followed a missed jumper by freshman Maurice Collins with a thunderous dunk.
All of Polk’s scores kept Temple within three points of Rhode Island.
His last trey of the game came at 6 minutes, 47 seconds and put the Owls ahead for good, 53-51.
“When he pulled me out and I came back in I just got in a flow,” Polk said.
So did the rest of the Owls.
Collins scored eight of his 14 points after Polk gave Temple the lead, including a trey to ice it with :54 remaining.
He also added five steals.
After scoring six quick points, Collins missed his next seven shot attempts before the Owls took full command.
“Coach gave him the license to miss,” junior guard David Hawkins said.
Hawkins finished with 13 points and the entire Temple starting lineup scored in double figures.
Freshman center Keith Butler finished with 10 points and three blocks while senior forward Alex Wesby added 14 points and four assists.
Ball movement has been a major factor in the Owls last couple of wins.
Despite missing a true point guard, Temple showed patience on the offensive end and continually looked for the extra pass and open man.
“That’s just something we were lacking on during the beginning of the season,” Wesby said.
“Everybody shared the ball and everybody got involved,” Hawkins said.
The Rams played a well-rounded game as well, blending crisp passing with deep penetration.
Rhode Island outscored Temple in the paint, 28-14. The Rams also controlled the offensive glass, 14-7.
The Rams offense also dished out 21 assists to Temple’s nine.
“Every time a guy wanted to drive,” Chaney said, “nobody stopped him.”
“We really did a good job of reversing the basketball and making the extra pass,” said Rhode Island head coach Jim Baron.
But what could have hurt the Rams the most was the 10 points by Butler, who was poorly guarded during the 22 minutes he was on the court.
The Rams had no help from their frontcourt, save Adingono, who was found mostly around the perimeter.
Rams center Howard Smith, who shadowed Butler, collected two points and his backup Chris Holm added two points as well.
Chris Silva can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org