Junior center Micheal Eric posted his first career double-double as the men’s basketball team cruised to a 70-51 victory over Fordham in the team’s Atlantic Ten Conference opener.
Eric, who finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, recovered nicely from a recent stretch of bad games. In the two previous games before Wednesday, Eric played a combined 22 minutes while averaging just 2.5 points, four rebounds and 3.5 fouls per contest. Against Fordham, Eric managed to avoid drawing even a single foul while playing 27 minutes.
Eric’s new-found ability to stay out of trouble was a result of Temple coach Fran Dunphy’s instructions to take it down a notch on the defensive end.
“Coach told me to work on not trying to be too aggressive on defense,” Eric said. “He talked to me and told me to get out of the funk. I was going through a little stretch where I couldn’t get anything going my way. I worked at that today on the court.”
Although Eric attributed the results to Dunphy’s pep-talk, the fifth-year coach thought otherwise.
“I’d like to tell you how profound and scientific [the talk] was,” Dunphy said sarcastically. “It was everything that everybody tells him all the time. He just paid attention tonight.”
The game started off poorly for the Owls, as the Rams came out strong. Fordham led, 23-16, around the eight-minute mark of the opening half. The Owls responded with a 19-4 run to enter the half with a 35-27 lead. The hot streak continued in the second half as the Owls came out of the locker room with a 20-4 run in the first nine and a half minutes of the second half.
“I think the slow start, for us, was because Fordham was ready to go,” Dunphy said. “They were just slicing us up. They made shots early and we were foolish on the offensive end a couple of times where we turned it over and gave them some early baskets …We did some switching up on the perimeter and that seemed to help us a little bit.”
Junior guards Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore scored 15 each to pace the Owls. Senior forward Lavoy Allen added 12 points. Moore has now scored in double figures in eight straight games, the longest such stretch of his career.
Freshman guard Branden Frazier scored 16 points for the Rams. Sophomore forward Chris Gaston, the reigning A-10 Freshman of the Year, scored a mere eight points in the loss.
“Gaston is one of the best players in our league. They want to show well against him. I thought we did a good job on him… He’s a good basketball player and I’m thrilled we kept him to a minimum tonight.
Temple shot 45.9 percent from the field, but just 26.7 percent from three-point range. The Rams, meanwhile, shot 38.2 percent from the field, including 34.5 percent in the second half.
“Dunph’s teams always defend their tails off,” Fordham coach Tom Pecora said. “We were able to execute our gameplan the first 15 minutes, and then they executed theirs the last 25. We knew we would have to get baskets in transition against them, because once you get them to half court, they’re as good and physical as they come.”
The game was played at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J, the former home of the New Jersey Nets and New Jersey Devils. No official attendance was announced, but the crowd was sparse, something the Owls were aware of.
The win improved the Owls to 10-3 on the year and 1-0 in the A-10. The team returns to the court on Sunday against Saint Louis. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.
Kyle Gauss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org