The last time Anthony Lee played in his season debut at the Liacouras Center, he was an afterthought to the visiting Central Michigan Chippewas. He did not record a field goal in the contest, going a resounding 0-4 from the field. His only two points came by shooting 50 percent from the free throw line as the forward was making only his second start, filling in for an injured Micheal Eric.
The redshirt sophomore made his second Liacouras Center debut, this one planned since the offseason, in Temple’s 77-63 defeat of the Rice Owls. While Temple shot 41.3 percent for the game, 15.4 percent from beyond the arc and didn’t have a bench point until less than six minutes remained in the game, Lee proved to be one of the few shining moments.
The forward had a game- and career-high 13 rebounds to accompany 16 points en route to his first career double-double.
“It means a lot, but that’s my job,” Lee said. “I’m a double-double guy. Now that I had the opportunity to get it, I’m not satisfied. I had a lot rebounds, but I should have had more. I’m proud of the way I played but I’m not satisfied because I can be a double-double guy every night.”
Besides the rebounding, Lee was effective in his shooting percentage on a night when most Temple players weren’t. Having a big man shoot 6-8 from the floor and 4-4 from the free throw line would put a smile on many coach’s faces.
“[Lee] was terrific tonight in so many ways,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “He did a terrific job on the offensive end. He came up with 13 rebounds and he is really starting to understand that that is a great strength of his.”
“That is a lot of rebounds from Anthony, and it was exciting to see those four foul shots go in,” Dunphy added.
Lee quietly is Temple’s second leading scorer after the first two games. While redshirt senior forward Scootie Randall had 31 points in the season opener against Kent State, it was Lee who pulled down 8 rebounds, leading the Owls in both games thus far.
The 16 points against Rice tied his career high he set in the previous game, giving him 32 points on the season. He did not eclipse that mark until a nine-point performance in the seventh game of last season gave him 35.
While the turnaround has been aided by the graduation of Eric, who took minutes away from Lee, the additional playing time, points and impact has been caused by more than just the departure.
“[Lee] took a summer off and worked out,” Randall said. “He works hard, he really works hard. He takes pride in what he does. He is coming along very well.”
In addition to the work on the court, Lee put in work in the weight room as well in the offseason. He added roughly twenty pounds since the end of last year, something he said gives him confidence and ability in the paint.
“I definitely feel a lot different,” Lee said. “I feel good, I feel stronger, I can dominate the paint when I get the chance and the opportunity. I am gaining a lot of trust from my teammates. When they throw it down there I can do a lot with it.”
“I’m more comfortable boxing out and having control and poise once I catch [the ball], I knew what to do with it,” Lee added. “Last year I was thinking too much, this year the game slowed down, and I feel at peace when I’m playing. I’m very relaxed.”
Lee’s peace may come with peace of mind for Dunphy and the Owls as well. In the season opener against Kent State, the Owls were able to take an easy victory due largely to shooting more than 36 percent on three pointers and getting 31 points from Randall. After shooting 15 percent from the three point arc against Rice, one constant remained, Lee’s performance.
“I need to rebound and be that guy for this team,” Lee said. “[Today] felt good, but I know that I can do a lot more.”
Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ibrahimjacobs.