The Temple men’s basketball team is in a slump right out of the gate and at 0-3 is off to its worst start since the 1988-89 season.
In the midst of a grueling and unconventional three road games in four days, the Owls lost 83-76 to Wake Forest Sunday night and 66-47 to South Carolina on Monday.
Led by freshman center Eric Williams’ 19 points and 10 rebounds, the Demon Deacons capitalized off easy transition points and dominated the offensive glass.
The Owls were outrebounded, 51-35, and struggled defensively, preventing themselves from mounting a serious comeback.
Owls’ freshman center Keith Butler played just 12 minutes, attempting one shot and grabbing one rebound.
A non-existent inside game forced the Owls to take most of their shots from the perimeter, as they were 15-for-38 from three-point territory.
Freshman forward Antywane Robinson played all but one minute, scoring 17 points and netting five three-pointers.
Junior David Hawkins had 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Alex Wesby had 14 points and a career-high 13 rebounds but managed just one point in the second half.
Similar to the season opener, the Owls were trying to chip away at a deficit, hoping they could make a game out of it.
But the matchup zone defense was exploited.
Things did not get any easier on Monday night as the Owls dropped a 66-47 decision to South Carolina in front of a crowd of 14,000 plus at the brand new Carolina Center in Columbia, S.C.
Despite two scoring droughts for a collective 11 minutes, the Owls controlled the first half up until the last minute, when the Gamecocks grabbed the lead at 23-19.
Butler struggled again, playing just 12 minutes. He hardly saw the ball and did not attempt a shot.
The Gamecocks took advantage with an endless assortment of dunks on the Owls, who were in disarray and shot a hapless 5-for-26 from beyond the arc.
The Owls were again outrebounded, 39-27, and exercised very little cadence on the offensive end.
No Owls’ team has ever started a season with four consecutive losses.
Through the first three games, coach John Chaney has used a point guard by committee.
The results have been futile, and David Hawkins, who is not a natural point guard, has committed 15 turnovers compared to just 12 assists.
Hawkins still remains the go-to-guy and must utilize his athleticism and power to drive to the basket.
Butler has logged 54 minutes through three games without scoring a point, attempting just three shots and grabbing 11 rebounds.
Lauded as a top ten high school recruit at his position, Butler has looked reluctant on the court so far. Nonetheless, he must see the ball to gain more confidence.
Robinson and the other starting freshman, guard Maurice Collins, have shown some flashes of brilliance, and both are averaging an astounding 30 minutes a game.
In the early goings, Chaney has yet to see his vaunted defensive scheme flummox opposing teams.
The Owls forced just eight turnovers against the Demon Deacons and nine against the Gamecocks.
Open shots have come with relative ease as the Owls have been slow at rotating, but the real problem is defending down low.
Both the Demon Deacons and Gamecocks won with overwhelming interior play.
The Owls will still be playing on the road when they face the University of Pennsylvania at the Palestra in a Big Five showdown Saturday.
Jason S. Haslam can be reache at Jasonhaslam@yahoo.com