Dunphy stressing defense

His name has popped up in almost every conversation about the men’s basketball team in recent weeks. Although much of the media’s focus has been on senior Mark Tyndale and junior Dionte Christmas, among Temple

His name has popped up in almost every conversation about the men’s basketball team in recent weeks.

Although much of the media’s focus has been on senior Mark Tyndale and junior Dionte Christmas, among Temple players and coaches, freshman Lavoy Allen is the hot topic. Tyndale, Christmas and coach Fran Dunphy have all expressed high expectations for the highly-touted newcomer.

“I can’t wait to start playing,” Allen said.

There is a reason why everybody on the team is raving about Allen.

It’s not a secret that the Owls struggled mightily on the defensive end last season. The 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward could immediately help the Owls in that aspect.

As the Owls enter their second season under Dunphy, the objective is clear – improve defensively or suffer the consequences. Last season, the consequence was a 12-18 overall record and a first round exit in the Atlantic Ten Conference playoffs.

The Owls will be tested on the defense as soon as the season tips off at No. 7 Tennessee on Friday. The Volunteers averaged 80.9 points per game last season.

After years of playing the matchup zone instituted by former coach John Chaney, the Owls switched to a man-to-man scheme when Dunphy arrived. The adjustment proved difficult for players who were accustomed to Chaney’s matchup zone.

The high-scoring Owls put up 75 points per game last season, but allowed 74.1 points to their opponents.

“We showed that we could score with some of the best teams in the country, but we couldn’t stop a lot of the good teams in the country,” Tyndale said.

The Owls hope that Allen can help bring that number down this season.

“Adding a guy like Lavoy Allen helps you,” Dunphy said. “But as much as it’s important for Lavoy to help us, we need more from Dionte, more from Mark, more from Semaj [Inge] – those guys are going to get minutes with their size and length.”

Dunphy has placed more emphasis on the defensive side of the ball this season, Christmas said. Even the word itself was embedded in everyone’s mind during the offseason.

“Coach Dunphy stresses defense everyday, even when I’m not on the court,” Christmas said. “I come into his office and say, ‘Hi’ and he’s saying, ‘Defense.'”

Rebounding is another key word for the Owls.

Temple ranked near the bottom of both offensive and defensive rebounding categories in the A-10 last season. Dion Dacons, the Owls’ leading rebounder at 6-foot-6, graduated.

That’s where Allen comes in.

At Pennsbury High, Allen averaged 9.6 rebounds per game as a senior, much higher than the 6.9 boards that Dacons pulled down last season. The Owls also expect 7-0 junior center Sergio Olmos and 6-9 freshman forward Craig Willaims to assist on the glass.

With the Owls looking to utilize four guards on the floor at times this season, it will be important for the smaller members of the squad to rebound as well, Dunphy said. Tyndale pulled down 6.7 boards per game for the Owls last season to rank second on the team.

The Owls need contributions from less experienced players in order to be successful.

While Allen and Williams seek to shore the frontcourt, freshman Martavis Kee looks to make his mark in the backcourt. The guard averaged 19 points and 8.7 assists as a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas.

Two other recruits, guard Ramone Moore and forward Micheal Eric, will miss the season. Moore is red-shirting and Eric was declared ineligible by the NCAA Clearinghouse.

Furthermore, with Dacons and Dustin Salisbury lost to graduation, several returning Owls have to adjust to expanded roles this season.

Olmos and sophomore guard Ryan Brooks showed signs of improvement at times last season and will be asked to take on more responsibility this year.

Christmas, the A-10’s leading scorer last season, will have to adjust to the added defensive pressure that he will see from opponents. The 6-5 guard surprised a lot of teams last season.

“I just have to play smart and use the rest of my teammates,” Christmas said.

Tyndale should be able to alleviate some of the pressure from Christmas. The duo, labeled as the “one-two punch” on the men’s basketball media guide, will be the Owls’ main offensive options.

In his final season, Tyndale said he hopes the team can win the A-10 tournament and punch a ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001.

“Our goal is to be A-10 champs,” Tyndale said. “When we get to the middle of the court, we chant ‘A-10 Champs’ everyday. That’s our biggest goal. That’s it.”

Tyson McCloud can be reached at tyson@temple.edu.

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