The Owls’ season was spoiled by an early exit in the postseason.
The men’s basketball season that was riding high for a one-month stretch from mid-January to mid-February came to a crashing end as the Owls lost back-to-back games, one in the Atlantic Ten Conference tournament and one in the NCAA tournament, for the first time since 2009.
HIGHLIGHTS: Temple upsets No. 3 Duke at the Wells Fargo Center on Jan. 4
The Owls, without injured starters, graduate center Micheal Eric and senior forward Scootie Randall, defeated a Top 10 program for the fourth consecutive year as they stunned the Blue Devils in a 78-73 win at the Wells Fargo Center on Jan. 4. Junior guard Khalif Wyatt paced Temple with 22 points and added five steals, solidifying his role as a clutch player.
Temple defeats Xavier, 85-72, at home on Feb. 11
Redshirt-senior guard Ramone Moore proved to the whole country that he was one of the best players in the A-10 as he scored 30 points, two shy of a career high, and hit five threes at home in a game televised nationally to lead the Owls to an 85-72 blowout win against the Musketeers on Feb. 11. Xavier entered the contest one game back of Temple for the lead in the A-10, and the Owls’ win separated them from the rest of the pack en route to their regular season title.
Temple clinches A-10 regular season title at Fordham on March 3
Temple won its first outright A-10 regular season title since 1990 in an 80-60 win at Fordham in the last regular season game of the year on March 3. Five Owls scored in double figures as they cruised to the blowout victory, giving Temple a chance to regain momentum heading into the postseason following two shaky games against Massachusetts and St. Joseph’s.
LOWLIGHTS: Temple’s wheels fall off as Owls fail to clinch Big-5 title at St. Joe’s on Feb. 25
Temple entered the Hagan Arena on Feb. 25 on an 11-game winning streak and with a chance to clinch its first outright Big-5 title since 2009 with a win against the Hawks. The Owls failed to come through, losing 82-72 to the same team Temple handled easily in a 78-60 win at home on Jan. 28. Temple never regained the momentum it had coming into that game, losing two of its four final games.
Temple drops opening round game to UMass in A-10 tournament on March 9
Despite clinching a first-round bye as the No. 1 team in the A-10 tournament with its A-10 regular season title, Temple was upset in the first round of the tournament by No. 8 UMass, 77-71, on March 9. Temple had trouble in both matchups with the fast-paced Minutemen this year. The Owls eked out a 90-88 overtime win against UMass on Feb. 29, less than two weeks before the two teams would face again in the A-10 tournament.
Temple exits March Madness early in loss to South Florida on March 16
No. 5 Temple dropped its opening game of the NCAA tournament for the fourth time under coach Fran Dunphy in a bad 58-44 loss to USF on March 16. After holding the Bulls to 11 percent shooting in the first half, Temple allowed USF to shoot 60.9 percent and outscore the Owls 43-25 in the second half en route to the Bulls’ 58-44 victory. Temple’s 44 points is the second-lowest point total of the tournament to date, a disappointing end to an otherwise very good season.
MOST TELLING MOMENT:
Temple holds on without Eric
Eric missed 13 games of the regular season due to an injured kneecap. Temple was drastically undersized and inexperienced in the frontcourt during this stretch, forced to start 6-foot 6-inch junior Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson and 6-foot 9-inch redshirt-freshman Anthony Lee, who hadn’t made a start in his career to date, at forward. But every player stepped up during Eric’s time off as the Owls went 9-4 and kept the season alive.
MVP: Ramone Moore
In a dead heat between Wyatt and Moore, Moore’s contribution as the team’s senior leader against Wyatt, who had some behaviorial problems throughout the year, is the tiebreaker. Moore led the team in scoring with 17.3 points per game while contributing the second-most assists (110) and finishing by far as the team’s best rebounding guard with 138 boards. Moore was the team’s best overall player all year.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: Anthony Lee
Lee entered this season as a redshirt freshman without any playing experience. Due in large part to Eric’s injury, Lee started 17 games this year and averaged 17.9 minutes per game. His improvements on both sides of the ball were on display in the Owls’ loss to UMass in the A-10 tournament when he finished with eight points, four rebounds and three blocks, while going a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line, in 15 minutes.
UNSUNG HERO: Aaron Brown
While junior guard TJ DiLeo became the Owls’ sixth man by the end of the year, it really was sophomore guard Aaron Brown who deserved more minutes. Brown finished with a better field-goal percentage than Moore or senior guard Juan Fernandez, and was the team’s second-best three point shooter overall. He provided instant offense off the bench against Central Michigan and Toledo in December when he scored 21 and 19 points, respectively, in 22 minutes in each game.
As hard as it may be to accept for Temple fans, this season for the men’s basketball team was just more of the same. Like in prior years under Dunphy, the Owls had a very good regular season and didn’t perform up to standard in the postseason.
Joey Cranney can be reached at email@example.com.