Will Cummings still thinks about being snubbed from the NCAA tournament last Sunday.
“I think that I am just still mad,” Cummings said about not making the tournament. “I’m just trying to keep playing basketball, so anything it takes to keep playing is something that I need to keep doing.”
The senior guard paced the Owls (25–10) again with another strong performance. In his first two National Invitation Tournament games, he has 51 total points. Extending his team’s season for at least one more game, and potentially as far as the final two rounds at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Cummings said, is all that matters.
“[Advancing] in the NIT is a big deal for me,” Cummings said. “I just want to keep playing with these guys because the days are numbered. I am just trying to take advantage of everything that is given to me right now.”
“I think we are playing with an edge, and we are playing with something to prove,” Cummings added. “We are trying to make some noise and get to Madison Square Garden.”
For an early-morning tip-off, Cummings and his teammates started off strong. As a team, Temple started 7 for 10 from the field and 4 for 6 from 3-point range, three of those coming from Morgan, who scored a season-high 20 points for the Owls.
“I think as a coach you’re always nervous of starting slow,” Dunphy said of his team’s strong start. “[Getting off to a good start] helped the players loosen up a little bit, and we made some shots. If you put some space between you and your opponent, you can afford a mistake or two.”
Junior forward Jaylen Bond bounced back Sunday from a month-long stretch in which he failed to record double-digit rebound numbers, notching 15 boards. He recorded 11 rebounds in the first half, four less than George Washington’s halftime total.
“[Bond] was terrific rebounding the ball,” Dunphy said. “He is so quick to the ball and he has great hands, as well. It is nice to see that number posted on the board.”
“Jaylen has been great on the defensive end,” Dunphy added. “He is the reason we are where we are statistically on defense.”
For the majority of the game, Dunphy’s defense played a 2-3 zone to limit the Colonials’ Top 4 scorers, who average a combined 44.5 points per game. Overall, George Washington’s 77 points were the most Temple has allowed since the Owls allowed 84 points in a 31-point defeat to Cincinnati on Jan. 17.
“With [junior forward] Kevin Larsen being as good as he is, I’m surprised he only had four assists,” Dunphy said of his team’s 2-3 zone performance. “We didn’t guard him very well and we didn’t deny him in the post as much as I would have liked. We were struggling a little defensively and we just gave it a different look.”
Off the bench, junior guard Devin Coleman provided a spark for the Owls, scoring all of his 13 points in the second half.
George Washington’s 1-3-1 zone allowed Coleman to get open looks, and he made the most of his opportunities throughout the game.
“It was nothing that I did differently,” Coleman said. “The game opened up. There was a lot of open floor space and a lot of spots to get shots, and I knocked some down. Whenever you see your first shot go in, that always helps. Even if you begin to miss, these guys and [Dunphy] tell me to keep shooting. Getting into a groove was easy.”
Dunphy’s team shot 50 percent from the field, and was able to attack the Colonials’ zone and get good looks.
“We attacked the 1-3-1 zone well,” Dunphy said. “I think we are a little settled sometimes on our zone offense. I thought we attacked the zone defense well and it always helps when you are making shots.”
With the win, the Owls advanced to the NIT’s third round and will host the winner of a second-round matchup between Texas A&M and Louisiana Tech, to be played Monday. The third-round matchup will take place Wednesday at the Liacouras Center, with a time yet to be announced.
Dalton Balthaser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DaltonBalthaser.