In the midst of the worst season of his tenure at Temple, coach Fran Dunphy said he was proud of his team for pushing No. 22 Memphis to overtime on Saturday evening in front of the largest crowd the Owls have played in front of this season.
“But I would have been even more proud to get more points,” Dunphy said.
Among the most pressing reasons for the team’s failures in the 82-79 loss to the Tigers was a lack of bench play – or nonexistent bench play, in terms of scoring. With junior forward Anthony Lee sitting out due to an injured toe, the Owls tallied zero points off the bench. During the team’s recent four-game stretch against Top 25 opponents, the Owls have tallied an average of 4.5 points off the bench, while their opponents have averaged more than 15 points from their reserves.
With sophomore Daniel Dingle already sidelined after right knee surgery, the Lee injury caused problems for the Owls – who were left with eight available players.
Against Memphis, Temple relied upon sophomore guard Quenton DeCosey, junior guard Will Cummings and senior guard Dalton Pepper. The three accounted for 67 of the team’s 79 points. Up until the 7:49 mark in the first half, only Cummings and Pepper had scored for Temple. The bench, which consisted of freshman Josh Brown and junior Jimmy McDonnell, played a combined 21 minutes. Pepper and Cummings played the entire game, save for one minute each.
With a lack of bench options, DeCosey has become one of the most relied upon players on the roster. Although his shooting percentage has dropped in the past few games, during the Owls’ 68-55 loss to No. 21 Connecticut, DeCosey played for 38 minutes and scored a team-high 16 points. For a 13-minute stretch of the second half, DeCosey was the only Temple player to score.
“Obviously we don’t have a lot of depth at the guard spot,” Dunphy said following the loss to the Huskies. “But he’s a strong kid and he’s working real hard at the game. We need him to step up.”
Another Owl who has been relied upon with the team’s short-stacked roster is Mark Williams. The freshman forward saw a career-high in minutes against the Huskies and then topped it in the team’s following game against the Tigers. He scored the Owls’ only points off the bench during the loss to UConn.
“Coach has confidence in me to put me in there,” Williams said. “My teammates have confidence in me. I got the opportunity and I capitalized.”
The Owls have one more game against an opponent that’s currently ranked – a road trip to Louisville on Thursday to face the Cardinals for the second time this month. Lee’s status for that game is uncertain. Should he not play, the Owls will again be presented with a bench of three players who average a collective 1.5 points per game.
In its inaugural season in the American Athletic Conference, Temple will have faced 12 opponents who were at one point nationally ranked this year.
“It’s a tough schedule with the teams coming from the A-10 to this conference,” DeCosey said. “We’re just trying to accept the challenge and come out every night and play hard.”
“That’s what you want,” Dunphy said. “You want that great challenge. We’ve been presented with that. It’s been a tough road but we’ve got more in store.”
Avery Maehrer can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @AveryMaehrer.