The month of February has been extremely generous to the Owls. Since a Jan. 31 loss to Jameer Nelson and No. 2 Saint Joseph’s, Temple has been a perfect 5-0, including three conference road wins.
The Owls stand at 12-10 overall.
The strong and consistent play of all-American candidate David Hawkins has been the largest factor to the Owls’ success. Hawkins is averaging 25.8 points in February.
Freshman guard Tyreek Byard has found his way into Chaney’s changing starting lineup. Byard has started the last three games for Chaney and is averaging 22.3 minutes per game during the Owls’ winning streak.
The February magic is nothing new for coach John Chaney and his squad. During his 22-year tenure at Temple, Chaney owns a 143-48 record in February.
Chaney thinks the team might be coming together.
“After being in the jaws of Hades, I would say so,” Chaney said. “We’ve sort of been there before and now we got six more ball games. I think our kids are sort of responding.”
Over .500 Early
Winning late in the season has been a custom of Temple over the past few seasons. The Owls’ 59-53 win against Georgetown last Saturday put them above .500 for the first time this season.
Last season, the Owls overall record didn’t top the .500 mark until the Atlantic Ten Tournament. Temple broke .500 thirty days earlier this time around. It seems the Owls have found a winning recipe and discovered it with enough time to make noise in the A-10 Tournament.
“I really stressed that [we haven’t had a winning record all season] in the pre-game speech,” Hawkins said after the win over Georgetown. “So this was like a real turning point to get this win. Hopefully we don’t look back.”
The numbers haven’t lied. When the Owls are clicking on defense they usually win. In their 11 wins this season they have yielded just 53.7 points a game. Conversely, in their 10 losses they are giving up 71.3. In three games this season, they have held opponents to under 50 points.
The Owls have five games remaining on their schedule, all against conference opponents. Three of those games are home at the Liacouras Center. The other two are on the road against Big 5 foes Saint Joseph’s and La Salle.
Butler Coming Along
Temple’s 7-foot sophomore center is slowly but surely making progress. Keith Butler’s numbers aren’t too impressive, but were good enough to help preserve Temple’s win over Georgetown.
Against the Hoyas, Butler blocked three shots and grabbed 10 rebounds, including a key defensive rebound late in the game to help seal the victory. In Temple’s previous win against Rhode Island, Butler dominated with 11 points, eight rebounds and six blocks. The Owls are hoping his recent play serves as a sign of things to come.
“I’m very happy with Keith, he talks to me in terms of when it gets to be crucial,” Chaney said. “Do I want him up in the middle or do I want him up on the side, so he can get the ball off.”
Despite a disappointing freshman season, Butler still has plenty of potential. He continues to get help on the boards from sophomore Michael Blackshear and junior Nehemiah Ingram. But more points from Butler in the middle would serve as a huge asset to the Owls, who are squarely dependent on both Collins (14.4 points per game) and Hawkins (24.2).
Donnell A. Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.