The Owls hold on for a win against A-10 foe Xavier after taking a 20-point lead at halftime last Saturday at home.
Xavier’s senior guard Tu Holloway had to deal with Temple defenders shadowing him during much of Saturday night’s game at the Liacouras Center.
The Musketeer’s go-to shooter managed to record 23 points against the Owls, but it wasn’t enough, as Temple (19-5, 8-2 in the Atlantic Ten Conference) defeated the visitors, 85-72.
The Owls’ defense had the challenge of limiting the Naismith preseason watch list player from getting too many points, as the Hempstead, N.Y. native is known for being able to take control of games. While Holloway went 7-for-15 from the floor, 2-of-4 from the three-point line and 7-of-9 on the free throw line to score a team-high 23 points on the night, it was the Owls’ offense that exploded to secure the win.
“We made some tough shots and we made some really timely shots,” said coach Fran Dunphy, during the post-game press conference. “Our guys were ready to play and I think [Xavier’s] defense is terrific. I think they’re going to be a very tough foe for everyone towards the end of the season.”
Redshirt-senior guard Ramone Moore paced the Owls with a game-high 30 points to go along with two assists and two steals in 39 minutes. The Owls shot 61.3 percent from the field and 7-of-11 from the three-point line in the first half to create a 20-point lead at halftime, 47-27.
Six different Temple players scored to open the game and the Owls jumped out to a 21-5 lead against a Musketeer defense that allowed opponents to score 66.2 points on average entering the contest. The Owls held the lead for the length of the game and saw their largest lead at 23 points, two-and-a-half minutes into the second half.
Xavier fought back in the second half to outscore Temple 45-38, but the Owls’ lead from the first half allowed them to hang on for the win. The Owls’ field goal percentage in the second half was 31 percent, while the Musketeers shot 48.4 percent.
“I think [Xavier] made some adjustments in the second half,” Moore said during the press conference. “But I think we won the game in the first half, we got out to a nice marginal lead, and we just maintained it throughout the game.”
Junior guard Khalif Wyatt and graduate center Micheal Eric contributed to the Owls’ offense, scoring in double figures with 18 and 11 points, respectively. Wyatt added four assists and three steals, while Eric grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds.
When the Owls score 70 or more points this season they are 16-2. The two losses came to Purdue, 85-77, during the first week of the season on Nov. 18 and to A-10 foe Dayton at home in an 87-77 defeat on Jan. 7.
Coming off a 79-72 win at home against George Washington last Wednesday, the Owls sought for a statement win in the A-10 with its matchup with Xavier. The Musketeers (16-9, 7-4 A-10) entered the ESPN2 nationally-televised matchup in a tie for second place in the A-10 with a chance to share the title with the Owls with a win.
The Owls knew if they were going to beat the Musketeers, they were going to have to slow down Holloway.
“You got to try to maintain guys like Holloway, you can’t really stop them,” Moore said.
Xavier won the series’ last meeting, 88-77, on Jan. 22, 2011, as Holloway led the way for the Musketeers with 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in 40 minutes. Despite Holloway’s ability to score more points than last year’s matchup, Xavier couldn’t pull out another win.
Xavier junior guard Mark Lyons shot 4-of-15 from the field and 1-of-6 from behind the arc to add 15 points with four assists in the game.
“That was our main focus just trying to stop Holloway and Lyons,” Moore said. “Those two guys are what make that team go.”
From the start, Dunphy put senior guard Juan Fernandez on Holloway in half court sets. Fernandez accounted for the 6-foot guard on more than 20 possessions during the game.
Throughout the game, Dunphy substituted senior guard TJ DiLeo into the game to defend Holloway for about 20 possessions as well. Both DiLeo and Fernandez received help defense from their teammates in order to hold off Holloway’s knack for scoring.
“[Holloway] got loose a couple of times. He’s really a talented guy,” Dunphy said. “I was pleased we didn’t give him any three [pointers] in the second half. You can’t give him too many decent looks out there. He’s going to drive it to the rim, he’s going to make great plays because he’s so difficult to guard.”
Offensively, DiLeo and Fernandez added seven and six points, respectively.
“I thought we played pretty well,” Moore said. “The game plan was to get defensive stops and make open shots.”
Connor Showalter can be reached at email@example.com.