Men’s basketball’s 3-game winning streak ends at La Salle

The Owls will work on playing more cohesively after their 87-83 road loss on Sunday.

La Salle sophomore guard Saul Phiri (left) and sophomore guard Quinton Rose (center) reach for a loose ball during the Owls’ 87-83 loss at Tom Gola Arena in Philadelphia on Sunday. | LUKE SMITH / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Early into the season, the Owls find themselves in a situation similar to the 2016-17 campaign.

Like last season, Temple won an early-season tournament in November by winning the Charleston Classic after beating Clemson University, 67-60, on Nov. 19.

After they won the National Invitation Tournament Season Tip-Off last season, the Owls entered January with a 9-6 record. They finished 16-16 and lost in the first round of the American Athletic Conference tournament.

“We’re not going to let that happen,” junior guard Shizz Alston Jr. said. “We’re just going to persevere through it and going to make sure that it doesn’t happen this season.”

The Owls received votes in the Associated Press Top 25 poll after starting the season with a three-game winning streak from Nov. 16-19. After their loss to La Salle on Sunday, the Owls didn’t receive any votes in Monday’s poll.

With 10 minutes, 57 seconds left in Temple’s game against La Salle on Sunday, the Owls held an 11-point lead. The Explorers went on an 11-0 run aided by a couple of Temple turnovers.

Sophomore guard Alani Moore II tried to make a pass to sophomore center Damion Moore, but there was miscommunication on the play. La Salle sophomore guard Saul Phiri stole the ball then made a pass to redshirt-junior guard Pookie Powell on the fastbreak. Powell scored a layup to tie the game before the Explorers won, 87-83, at Tom Gola Arena.

The Owls committed 13 turnovers compared to La Salle’s four in their first loss of the season. The Explorers scored 15 points off those turnovers.

The Owls have had double-digit turnovers in every game this season. Sophomore guard Quinton Rose, who had a team-high five turnovers against the Explorers on Sunday, leads the team with 16.

“I have to live with some of the things that he does,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “But there are a couple of things that I wish he would not have done [Sunday]. But we’ll work on it. He’ll work on it. He’ll be better the next time.”

Though Rose has struggled with turnovers, he is Temple’s second-leading scorer with an average of 17.5 points per game. Last season, he averaged 10.1 points per game.

Rose took over offensively during several possessions against La Salle. He scored eight of Temple’s final 10 points in the first half.

During the Charleston Classic, Rose shot the ball well from beyond the arc in stretches. In Temple’s 88-74 victory against Auburn University on Nov. 17, Rose went 5-for-8 on 3-pointers.

Since that game, he has missed all seven of his 3-point attempts. Rose did his damage from inside the arc against La Salle, scoring eight of his 21 points in the paint.

“He’s a talented player,” redshirt-senior guard Josh Brown said. “He’s getting more consistent offensively. … It’s kind of easy having him out on the floor with his scoring ability. Guys can’t really stay in front, so he’s been showing that he’s a key part to our team and we want to feed him more.”

Before Temple’s first official practice on Oct. 5, Dunphy said he wanted the type of player senior forward Obi Enechionyia was through the first 10 games last season to be “prominent.” Enechionyia averaged 18.6 points, 2.9 blocks and 7.7 rebounds per game during that stretch.

Through four games, he is averaging 15.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and shooting 47.6 percent from 3-point range.

Enechionyia became the 52nd player in program history to score 1,000 points after sinking a pair of free throws in the first half against La Salle.

The Owls have also featured Enechionyia at center with Rose or freshman wings De’Vondre Perry and J.P. Moorman II playing power forward.

During Temple’s victory against Auburn, junior center Ernest Aflakpui and Damion Moore only combined for 20 minutes. The Owls stretched the floor with Enechionyia at the five and shot 38.5 percent from 3-point range.

Temple’s 41.8 3-point percentage ranks second in the American Athletic Conference.

“We’ve been shooting the ball well, but on offense we need to move the ball more, share the ball a little bit better,” Brown said. “Defensively, we need to make our money because there’s going to be days where we’re not hitting shots. So when that day comes, we need to be able to sit down and play defense and we need to work on that.”

Despite Temple letting La Salle hit several key 3-pointers late in its loss, the Owls had the Explorers’ shooters well covered.

Prior to Sunday, the Owls only allowed more than 70 points once. They rank second best in The American in 3-point defense.

Brown said it’s obvious Temple has the talent to be successful, but the team needs to “come together a little bit more” moving forward.

“It’s still early,” Brown said. “We just need to trust our coaching staff, our game plan and just play as one, not individually. Early on, we’ve been doing a pretty good job of that. Now we just need to naturally progress doing those things.”

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