In the game where Temple finally got injured redshirt-senior center Micheal Eric back into the lineup, the Owls stayed away from the inside and used their perimeter shooting to pick up another non-conference victory.
Despite the return of injured redshirt-senior center Micheal Eric, the Owls stayed away from the inside and used their perimeter shooting to pick up another non-conference victory.
Temple (13-6) got 54 points from its trio of starting guards as the Owls beat Maryland (12-6) 73-60, the team’s second win against an Atlantic Coast Conference team this season.
The Owls were led by senior guard Juan Fernandez, redshirt-senior guard Ramone Moore and junior guard Khalif Wyatt, who accounted for more than two-thirds of the team’s total points.
“We have three guards who make good decisions no matter who is in the game, and I thought each of them stepped up and made big shots,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “Their basketball IQ is as good as anybody that I’ve had the opportunity to coach over the years. I’ve coached some really good players and some really good guards. I think those three guys are as good as anybody I’ve ever coached.”
Fernandez scored 14 points, while Moore and Wyatt added 20 apiece. As a group, the trio shot 7-16 from behind the arc. In Eric’s absence, the Owls have been forced to rely on the three guards for scoring and it has paid off in the team’s nine wins during his injury.
“It’s just the way we’ve been playing and it’s been working pretty good,” Fernandez said. “We’ll have more options as Mike gets more confidence.”
Eric played seven minutes at forward, his first game action since suffering a stress fracture in his right patella in late November.
“I felt good,” Eric said about his performances. “I was excited about it, I couldn’t sleep last night.”
“We were thrilled to get him as many minutes as we did,” Dunphy added. “It was only seven minutes, but it was seven minutes toward him getting better.”
Temple relied on its outside shooting despite recent strong performances at forward from redshirt-freshman Anthony Lee and junior Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson.
Lee posted a career high in blocks and Hollis-Jefferson scored a career high 19 points in Temple’s 76-70 win against La Salle on Wednesday. But against Maryland, the duo combined for seven points and seven rebounds.
“We’re not an inside-oriented group,” Dunphy said. “I’d like to tell you we have [National Basketball Association Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon] down there, but we don’t. We have [Lee] and [Hollis-Jefferson]. We’re not an inside-presence group, but we can drive and kick and get some easy baskets on occasion.”
Temple has now led for almost 68 out of 80 minutes in its past two games. At one point against Maryland the Terrapins brought the Owls’ lead down to one before Wyatt, Moore and Fernandez hit consecutive threes to extend the margin to 10.
“All three of us made big shots,” Moore said. “We made key plays down the stretch to get the win.”
Dunphy said the spread-out scoring performance from the three guards was typical of the unselfishness of Fernandez, Moore and Wyatt.
“They all want to score and we need them to score, but they all like to give it up as well, and I think that’s part of why we are difficult to guard.”
Dunphy said that while Eric’s return is welcome and the progression of Lee and Hollis-Jefferson has been critical in his absence, the offense will continue to be centered around Temple’s trio of guards.
“We just figure it out,” Dunphy said. “I’d like to tell you we’re a more balanced team, but we’re not. We just have to figure it out as we move on.”
Joey Cranney can be reached at email@example.com.