Solid teams breed solid wins.
And with the calendar well into January, it appears the men’s basketball team capably falls into that category.
Behind 30 points from senior guard Dionte Christmas and 21 points from sophomore forward Lavoy Allen, the Owls eased past La Salle, 75-68 Sunday night at Tom Gola Arena in its Atlantic Ten Conference opener.
Temple (8-6, 1-0 A10) never trailed in the contest, and after Allen sunk two early free throws to extend the lead to five, never let La Salle (8-6, 0-1 A10) come within a possession.
Overall, it was a fairly dominating performance for coach Fran Dunphy’s squad, though, he didn’t exactly come off as positive with his team’s performance
“We played pretty well offensively in the first half, I thought we were poor in the second half,” Dunphy said. “I don’t think we handled the zone as well as I would have liked. We didn’t look in the middle of the floor, there were a number of times where we were almost tentative trying to get the ball to the middle, which is what we’ve got to do.”
But in that second half, a key to keeping its lead intact was the Owls ability to sink big shots just as the Explorers were making a run. Both Christmas and junior guard Ryan Brooks hit clutch 3-pointers with the Owls leading by five and the opposition on their tails.
“[We] just stayed poised,” Christmas said. “When those guys came out, they had their run, I thought we did a great job of staying poised and knocking down shots.”
Hitting shots like that is especially important to Christmas, who as the Owls co-captain puts those responsibilities squarely on his shoulders.
“It’s definitely a good feeling when my team needs me the most and I come through like that,” he said.
Helping Christmas, who hit five 3-pointers in 13 attempts, achieve that was the play of Allen, who Dunphy has repetitively called the most talented player on the team.
While he can look lost on the court at times, Allen came out on fire, scoring the Owls’ first 12 points of the game.
“My teammates were finding me down low, so I had open shots and decided to take them,” Allen said. “It worked out.”
His play, which Dunphy continues to stress is vital to the Owls’ success, certainly caught his coaches’ eye.
“He was tremendous in the early part of the game,” Dunphy said. “He set the tone, I thought he did a great, great job on both ends of the floor. He was blocking shots, he does a great job on the gloss. On the offense end, he was really battling that way.”
With the battle on the offensive end largely in the hands of Christmas and Allen, that lead to the other players accounting for just 24 points total.
And that lack of spreading the ball around is something Dunphy wants to fix.
“No coach is going to want [a two-man game],” he sad. “I think we’d like to spread it around a little bit.”
The Owls also out-rebounded the Explorers, 40-33 and 15-10 on the offensive end.
The Owls return to action Wednesday night for a Big 5 tilt with Penn. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. at the Palestra.
Forwards Allen, sophomore Craig Williams and freshman Micheal Eric all sported mohawks for the game…Allen claimed it was Williams’ idea, and talking over a snickering Christmas, said the idea “started out as a joke”…Junior guard Luis Guzman and freshman guard Ramon Moore both did not play…The game time as supposed to be 2 p.m., but due to the Philadelphia Eagles playoff game this afternoon, the time was changed…Former Owl Chris Clark was in attendance.
Todd Orodenker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.