Defense, offense a tale of two stories for Owls

Temple University men’s basketball has found rhythm on the defensive side of the ball while inconsistency shooting remains an issue.

Damian Dunn, a redshirt-freshman guard, is the only Owl shooting over 70 percent from the free throw line among players with 40 or more free throw attempts. | NICK DAVIS / FILE

Temple University men’s basketball (11-7, 4-3 The American Athletic Conference) has hit its stride on defense, but shooting at a high clip remains a nagging issue. 

Temple was on a four-game winning streak before falling short at the hands of Southern Methodist University (16-4, 7-1 The American) on Jan. 29. The loss dropped the Owls to fifth place in The American after they had reached as high as third. 

A consistent starting lineup has emerged, though, with the likes of freshman forward Nick Jourdain, freshman guard Jahlil White and redshirt-sophomore forward Arashma Parks joining freshman guard Jeremiah Williams and redshirt-freshman guard Damian Dunn.

In Temple’s last six games, only one opponent eclipsed the 70-point mark. However, in that same six-game stretch, the Owls themselves only scored at least 70 points once. 

Here are some strengths and weaknesses of this Owls team thus far. 

Defensive Prowess

Temple is one of the few teams that have held the No. 7 Houston Cougars to less than 66 points this season. Only three of Houston’s 20 opponents have done so all season. 

With height, length and great awareness of half-court sets, Temple is menacing to opponents, sitting at third in The American for blocks per game and fifth for rebounds per game. 

This is in large part because head coach Aaron McKie has deployed taller lineups each game. He also is constantly putting versatile defenders on the floor to accompany one to three big men. 

White, Williams and Jourdain, in particular, have outperformed expectations this season. 

“[Williams] is going to take that challenge to guard no matter who it is,” Dunn said. 

On Jan. 29, Williams held The American’s leading scorer, Mustangs’ senior guard Kendric Davis, to 11 points – Davis’ second-lowest scoring total this season. He forced Davis into foul trouble early and picked him up three-fourths of the way down the court each possession. 

While Williams is guarding the opponents’ best guards each game, White – a two-time AAC Freshman of the week – has been Temple’s true lockdown defender.

White is averaging at least one steal per game, but also leads the team in rebounds per game, using his colossal frame and quickness to get to the ball first. 

Jourdain is second in The American in blocks per game, averaging about 1.7, and is second on the team in rebounds per game, averaging 4.9. 

Jourdain’s paint presence prevents easy points down low, and allows for second-chance points on the offensive glass, although Temple’s shooting efficiency is lackluster in those situations. 

Shooting Struggles

Temple seemed to have sorted out its shooting problems with back-to-back wins against East Carolina University (11-8, 2-5 The American) on Jan. 8 and the University of Tulsa (7-12, 1-7 The American) on Jan. 12, shooting 49.1 percent and 45.8 percent from the field, respectively. 

Yet, in their next two games against the University of Cincinnati (14-6, 4-3 The American) on Jan. 25 and at SMU on Jan. 29, the Owls dropped back to shooting below 35 percent from the field. Against Cincinnati, they only shot 21.4 percent from three. 

Temple’s main issue is free throw shooting. For a team that makes every player hit two straight foul shots to conclude practice, there have been many dry spells in which they can barely hit the rim from the charity stripe. 

Williams is shooting 62 percent from the line, while White is shooting 48 percent on free throws. The Owls have four players who have attempted more than 40 free throws this season, yet Dunn is the only one shooting above 70 percent. 

“We were fortunate down the stretch to be able to make our free throws,” McKie said after the Owls’ win against the Golden Hurricane on Jan. 12. 

Temple’s streak of four straight wins were all decided by five points or less. Their inconsistent free throw shooting is making their margin for error between wins and losses much smaller. It’s a trend they must even out before the AAC Tournament. 

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.