Hawkins powers Temple to first conference win

David Hawkins’ shoulders must be aching. Aside from the inordinate number of shots the senior guard takes, he has carried the Owls on his shoulders and will continue to do so until someone picks up

David Hawkins’ shoulders must be aching.

Aside from the inordinate number of shots the senior guard takes, he has carried the Owls on his shoulders and will continue to do so until someone picks up the scoring slack.

And with Temple playing its first home game in almost a month, Hawkins didn’t let his teammates down when they needed him the most, helping the Owls squeak past Rhode Island for a 58-53 win. It was Temple’s first conference win of the season.

Both teams played ugly, even by Temple’s standards. Had the Owls (5-7, 1-2) shown any offensive fluidity, they would have ran away with this one midway through the second half. Instead, the Rams (12-5, 1-2) rallied to make the game interesting when the Owls only made 13 of 23 free throws in the second half (44.8 percent for the game) before connecting down the stretch.

Hawkins, who finished with 24 points and five rebounds, led Temple to a much-needed win and awoke a staid crowd with a huge three-pointer in the final minute of play. He scored seven points in the final 15 seconds of the game.

The rest of the Owls failed to show any offensive spark in a contest they almost let slip away. Temple shot 32.8 percent from the floor for the game.

“The first thing we’ve got to do to turn things into a different direction is to get a win, so it was important for us to get a win,” Hawkins said. “We still have a lot of work to do closing out games, knocking fouls shots down, and rebounding.”

Temple didn’t look comfortable on its home court after returning from a four-game road trip. Owls’ sophomore center Keith Butler played on and off while battling a case of bronchitis. Coach John Chaney said his center has been sick the past four or five days and has been spending more time at the hospital than he has at practice. Butler finished with six points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes of play.

“He’s just been injured most of the year,” Chaney said. “He had a sprained ankle the first game of the season, then had a concussion at Miami, and he’s just been going from one thing to the next.”

The Rams headed into the game winners in nine of their last 11, including a perfect 7-0 in December. However, without their second-leading scorer Brian Woodward, who was suspended for getting into a fight against Xavier, the Rams played sloppily. After the Rams cut the lead to 33-29 with 16:55 left in the game, they missed their next seven shots and committed four turnovers over a seven-minute span.

Temple freshman guard Dustin Salisbery extended the lead to 40-29 with a put back dunk. Rhode Island slowly chipped away as Temple continued to misfire on its free throws. The Owls shot an awful three of 17 from the line through the first 35 minutes of play. The Rams fought their way to a tie with less than two minutes to go.

Following an Owls time-out, Hawkins roamed the baseline and stepped out, drilling a wide-open three, which put them up 51-48 with 1:18 to go. The colorful Chaney, who enjoys deriding his players in front of everyone, said Hawkins’ key shot was luck. Only during the waning moments of the contest did the Owls begin connecting from the foul line, hitting 10 of 12 in the final five minutes.

“I threatened them,” said Chaney on why his team started making their foul shots.

On the dismal foul shooting, Chaney added, “I wish I had answers for that. I don’t know. All my years I’ve been unable to answer that. Sometimes we shoot foul shots for an hour. All kinds of foul shots, under silence, under games, under punishment and I don’t know.”

Rhode Island failed to capitalize off Temple’s bad shooting and had 19 turnovers, but many were self-inflicted. The Rams were called for traveling a number of times, drawing the ire of coach Jim Baron. Temple had 18 points off those turnovers. The Rams were led by junior guard Dawan Robinson, who had 21 points but seven turnovers.

“They’re long and lanky and athletic,” said Baron of the Owls’ defensive play. “They forced us to do more things against their zone than any other team.”

Jason Haslam can be reached at jasonhaslam@yahoo.com.

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