After leading all scorers with 16 points entering halftime, junior forward Obi Enechionyia missed his first four field goal attempts of the second-half.
But when he slammed in a putback dunk to give the Owls a 59-56 lead with seven minutes and 44 seconds left in the game, Enechionyia gave the Owls life. He went on to score Temple’s next seven points, including a dunk off a drive on the left baseline.
Enechionyia’s performance helped lead the Owls to a 78-72 victory against St. Joseph’s at Hagan Arena on Wednesday night and extend Temple’s (5-2) four-game win streak.
“My goodness he’s a bad boy right there,” senior guard Josh Brown said. “They gotta change up something man. They keep leaving this guy open, but hey, we’ll take it.”
Enechionyia, who was announced as the NCAA.com Player of the Week on Monday, led all scorers with 26 points on 10-of-22 shooting. He also had five rebounds, one block, one assist and one steal on the night.
He went 6-of-12 from 3-point range and is now shooting almost 55 percent from behind the arc this year.
“I saw Fran Dunphy on Monday morning, and I said, ‘Every tape that I watched I just assumed that every ball he shot went in,” Martelli said. “I didn’t know where he could miss. I didn’t know when he missed. Having lived through that last year with Isaiah Miles, all credit to that kid because he must spend hour upon hour. Because it’s not just the ball going in, it’s his stroke his so pure.”
Brown, who injured his Achilles tendon in May returned to action for the first this season against St. Joseph’s. Brown only played 14 minutes, but he had four points, one block and one assist.
Midway through the second half, Brown made a block under the basket on junior guard Shavar Newkirk. Brown then grabbed the ball, took it down the court and dished it to sophomore guard Shizz Alston Jr. who hit a jumper to give the Owls a 55-53 lead at the 9:36 mark.
“There’s a different feeling on the court,” Enechionyia said of Brown’s return. “There’s security on both sides of the ball. For him to come back from that injury it’s great. When I saw him hit his first shot, that felt pretty good. I was pretty happy for him.”
St. Joseph’s got off to an 11-2 to start the game thanks to a pair of threes by Newkirk. Newkirk, who came into the game averaging 21.8 points per game, scored 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting to lead the Hawks.
After the slow start, Temple muscled its way back by shooting 41.9 percent in the first half and entered halftime with 34-31 lead.
“Any time we go down, it’s just a matter of focus and getting back to the focus that we need,” Enechionyia said. “I know we can come back from being down like that, so I’m not really worried at any point. This team is pretty resilient.”
The second half featured seven lead changes and each team matching each other bucket-for-bucket on the offensive side of the ball.
Enechionyia drove the lane went to dish it to the top of the key, but turned the ball over to sophomore guard Lamarr Kimble. Newkirk later drilled a three with 5:26 remaining assisted by freshman forward Charlie Brown to cut the Owls’ lead to two, 64-62.
Three possessions later, the Owls got a big response from freshman guard Quinton Rose, who scored a career high 26 points last week against Florida State. With 4:07 left in the game, Rose made a jumper, and followed it up by going past a defender and finishing with a left-handed layup on the next possession to put the Owls up 71-66.
Freshman guard Alani Moore made two free throws with 2:48 left to put the Owls up 73-69. Dunphy was impressed by the plays made by the two freshman late in a close game.
“The special ones have ones have no fear,” Dunphy said. “I’d like to think those two guys are special.”
Tom Ignudo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @Ignudo5.