After a first half in which it shot 1-of-9 from beyond the arc, had eight turnovers, and registered a season-low 18 points, Temple probably couldn’t have had a second half worse than the first if it tried. What the Owls did do, was use good shooting, and tight defense to erase a 10-point deficit.
The Owls (12-4) knocked off George Washington (7-9) 55-53 after trailing the Colonials 28-18 at halftime. It was Temple’s second conference win, and moves its Atlantic 10 record to 2-1.
“Any time you can go on the road and win a game, especially with the kind of league we have this year, you should be pleased,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “You should thank your lucky stars and go back and get on that bus.”
The 18 points in the first half represented a season-low for the Owls, and at times the offense appeared lost, recording seven turnovers in the first half as well.
“There was a lot of fractured play out there,” Dunphy said. “It was certainly no thing of beauty. Our offense was struggling and we need to find more ways to score baskets at this point.”
The team credited the 10-point deficit to stifling play on the defensive end in limiting the Colonials to 28 first half points, and zero points over the game’s final eight minutes.
“Our defense really kept us in this game,” graduate senior Jake O’Brien said. “We were able to hit just enough shots to stay in the game but it was our defense that really allowed us to win.”
Senior guard Khalif Wyatt led the way for the Owls with a game-high 18 points despite shooting 5-of-18 from the floor. It was the eighth time this season Wyatt has led the team in scoring.
When George Washington senior Isiah Armwood recorded a layup with 7:53 remaining in the game, it looked to be a dagger for the Owls. Armwood’s 12th and 13th points had given the Colonials an eight point lead, and with the Owls struggling to score all night, the game looked to be out of reach.
Temple responded with back-to-back buckets by graduate senior Jake O’Brien, and a defense that didn’t allow the Colonials to score for the remainder of the game.
“We needed this win,” Wyatt said. “We didn’t play our best basketball, but we found a way, and that is all that counts.”
The Owls battled foul trouble all game. With O’Brien already playing with four fouls, sophomore forward Anthony Lee picked up his fourth with more than five minutes remaining in the second half. Two minutes later, O’Brien was called for an illegal screen with 2:52 remaining en route to his fifth, and final, foul.
“[O’Brien and Lee] aren’t getting to spots quick enough,” Dunphy said. “They are not anticipating and doing their work early enough as they say. They need to move their feet and they aren’t doing that.”
O’Brien received the starting nod instead of senior forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson. It was O’Brien’s second start at Temple, and the first time this season Hollis-Jefferson did not start. O’Brien was second on the team in scoring today, with 10 points, but only recorded two rebounds.
“I’m going to start plugging in a different starter every game just because I don’t want us to feel like we are entitled to things,” Dunphy said. “I have never really done that before in my career and if you are playing well you will finish every game, which is more important than who starts.”
Senior forward Scootie Randall, who entered the season as the Owls’ top perimeter threat shot only one long ball, and registered four points and zero rebounds in 27 minutes of action. While Randall’s performance wasn’t one of his best on the season, Dunphy isn’t doubting his skill set.
“I will mention that he is in a little bit of a funk and that I don’t want him to stop shooting,” Dunphy said. “If he has an open shot I want him to take it. But I will also mention that he played 27 minutes and he and I had the same number of rebounds.”
The Owls will face St. Bonaventure on Saturday in its fourth straight conference game, tip-off is set for 1:00 p.m. at the Liacouras Center.
Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at email@example.com.