The Falcons outshot the Owls in a loss on Sunday.
The men’s basketball team (3-2) felt the absence of its 6-foot-11-inch graduate center Micheal Eric due to an injury in its 67-64 loss to Bowling Green on Sunday.
The Falcons (4-2) came away with the win after taking the lead with a minute and a half remaining and defending three point attempts by the Owls’ redshirt-senior guard Ramone Moore and junior guard T.J. DiLeo in the final five seconds of the game. The loss snapped Temple’s 12-game winning streak against Mid-American Conference opponents.
Eric, who is fourth on the team in scoring (10.5 points per game) and led the Atlantic Ten Conference in rebounding (11.3 per game) entering the game with the Falcons, reinjured his right knee during practice last Friday. The Nigerian native suffered the same injury last season and had to sit out the team’s final 10 games.
Coach Fran Dunphy said pending Eric’s MRI this week, it is “uncertain” whether Eric will be able to play in the Owls’ home opener on Saturday against Central Michigan.
“We certainly missed [Eric] with his size and rebounding,” Dunphy said. “But we had opportunities to win the game.”
With Eric out of the lineup and still without senior forward Scootie Randall, the Owls were outrebounded 31-26 and outshot by a field goal percentage of 55.8 to 46.2 against Bowling Green. The Falcons were also successful by scoring 17 total bench points compared to the Owls’ seven.
In a contest which featured 13 tied scores, the game’s final plays decided the outcome. Junior guard Khalif Wyatt led the Owls down the final stretch, scoring eight of the team’s last 11 points, and posted a game-high 19 points.
“I just took what the defense gave me and tried to help my team,” Wyatt said. “Bowling Green is a good team. They’re a veteran team and were better than us [Sunday].”
Wyatt, who averaged 10.1 points off the bench last season, played all but two minutes of the game against the Falcons as a starter. The Norristown native said he feels supported by his teammates to take more shots on offense.
“We know that [Wyatt] can score the ball,” Moore said. “I don’t think a lot of us are surprised about his scoring.”
Redshirt-freshman forward Anthony Lee received his first collegiate start in place of Eric and played a career-high 30 minutes to go with his career high in points (11) and rebounds (nine).
“I think [Lee] did really well, he did what he had to do,” Dunphy said. “He is working on getting in a better position defensively.”
“I think we are working on getting him more minutes,” Dunphy added. “We didn’t want to throw him out into the wolves [Sunday], but that’s what we needed to do.”
Bowling Green’s junior forward A’uston Calhoun led the Falcons with 16 points, while adding seven rebounds and three blocks. Sophomore center Cameron Black at 6-foot-10-inches also stood tall for the Falcons and contributed three blocks as well, adding seven points and three rebounds.
“Bowling Green had a great team strategy,” Moore said. “It was a tough loss for us.”
The Owls recently played three games in the 5-hour Energy Puerto Rico Tip-Off, on Nov. 17-20. Temple suffered its first loss of the season to Purdue, 85-77 in a semi-final matchup, but won its games against Western Michigan (69-55) and Wichita State (78-74 OT) to earn third place at the tournament.
“I think we are finding our way a little bit,” Dunphy said about the team’s performance at the tournament. “We did just OK. We have to get better defensively.”
Moore was named Co-Big 5 Player of the Week after leading the Owls in scoring for three of the week’s four games. The Philadelphia native averaged 20 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game, while scoring a season-high 27 points against Purdue.
The Owls outshot the Boilermakers by recording a season-high 51.9 field goal percentage in the loss, which marked the first time in 48 games Temple lost after shooting better than its opponent. Purdue went on to the championship game in the tournament where it fell to Alabama by a score of 65-56.
One reason why Purdue was able to pick up the win against Temple was due to the Owls’ 26 team fouls. Eric, who had a game-high eight rebounds, along with seven points and two blocks fouled out of the game after playing 14 minutes. In addition, senior guard Juan Fernandez and DiLeo also reached the five-foul limit during the second half.
Dunphy said the team needs to limit the number of players who get into foul trouble, especially with a short bench due to injuries.
“We are trying to play good defense without fouling,” Dunphy said. “We need guys out there as long as possible.”
Offensively, senior guard Lewis Jackson paced Purdue with 26 points and forward Robbie Hummel added 20 points. The Boilermakers as a team shot 47.3 percent from the field and had a 37.5 three point field goal percentage.
“Puerto Rico was a good experience for us and we came together,” Wyatt said. “We learned a lot about our team.”
Connor Showalter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.