The men’s basketball team had hung close to its opponents in its first two games, only to suffer a late-game scoring drought en route to a loss in each game.
Rutgers never had a chance to pull off a similar stunt in Wednesday’s game.
The Owls had doubled the Scarlet Knights’ point total six minutes into the second half as they blew by Rutgers, 77-54 at the Liacouras Center, giving coach Fran Dunphy his first Temple victory.
“To get that first win for Coach and myself and Dustin, being the seniors, is great. I love it,” forward Dion Dacons said. “But like we talked about in the locker room. Now it’s over. We got Long Beach State [on Saturday].”
For the second consecutive game, sophomore forward Dionte Christmas topped the Owls in scoring with 27 points. The first-year starter has bested his career high in points in each of the Owls’ three games this season. He left to a standing ovation with 3:25 left.
Perhaps more surprising was the performance of DaShone Kirkendoll. The junior forward’s 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting set a career high. His six three-pointers were more than he had all of last season, when he shot 4-of-19 behind the arc.
“If we have Dionte Christmas, Dustin Salisbery and DaShone Kirkendoll open for jumpers, I’ll take that anytime,” Dunphy said.
Dacons established himself under the glass early, notching six of his career-high 10 rebounds in the first half.
With the Owls leading slimly, 21-19, they embarked on a 17-4 run to end the first half, which put the Owls on top for good. Temple took a 15-point advantage into the break, at 38-23.
Rutgers made its own late-game push, with a 16-4 run midway through the second half, but the Owls had built a large-enough lead to make the run moot.
John Kopp can be reached at email@example.com.