Alani Moore II’s first miss didn’t come until he attempted a stepback 3-pointer within the last two minutes of the first half.
The freshman guard started the game 5-for-5 from the field and had 15 first-half points on Thursday night at the Liacouras Center. He added 11 more in the second half to score a career-high 26 points and lead Temple (9-4) to a 83-77 win against Yale University.
“I just came out and hit my first shot and then after that you know just kept letting it fly and they started falling,” Moore said.
Neither team’s leading scorers factored much into Thursday’s game.
Yale sophomore guard Alex Copeland, who was coming off a career-high 23-point performance, only had seven points.
Junior forward Obi Enechionyia had 10 rebounds, but only scored three points, making one of his 11 field goal attempts before leaving the game in the second half with an injury. Coach Fran Dunphy didn’t have an update, but hopes Enechionyia will be ready for the Owls’ first conference game on Wednesday against Cincinnati.
Along with Moore, redshirt-senior swingman Daniel Dingle, sophomore guard Shizz Alston Jr. and freshman guard Quinton Rose all scored in double figures. Dingle had 19 points and four rebounds, while Alston added 16 points on 4-of-7 shooting in addition to seven assists.
“I hope that we are a team that can count on a number of guys putting points up,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “Obviously we’re hoping [Enechionyia] will contribute, although his 10 rebounds tonight were critical. … That’s what he needs to do is become a complete player because when his jumper is off then he’s gotta get other ways to help us score.”
Yale senior forward Sam Downey prolonged his team’s first offensive possession of the second half with two offensive rebounds. Just more than a minute later, he got another offensive rebound on a tip-in to bring Yale to within five points.
Temple outscored Yale 13-5 in the next 2:32 to get its largest lead at 48-35. The Bulldogs answered with an 8-0 run to make it a five-point game. The Owls went almost five minutes without scoring before Rose drove to the basket and laid in a finger roll to stop Yale’s run.
“I think we had a 13-point lead and we get stuck on 48 for a little bit,” Dunphy said. “We didn’t run good offense and then we let a couple of shots go to them that we can’t and they got back in. I was hoping we would put some more space between us and them, but give Yale a lot of credit.”
Downey finished with 17 rebounds on the night, including nine on the offensive glass. He had 15 points to finish with a double-double. Freshman forwards Miye Oni and Jordan Bruner also had 15 points.
Temple played small against Yale. Sophomore center Ernest Aflakpui and freshman center Damion Moore totaled a combined 16 minutes of action. The Owls were outscored 32-14 in the paint.
“Hopefully Ernest will stay out of foul trouble,” Dunphy said. “Hopefully Damion Moore will continue to progress. That will help us. Then we just gotta battle more. We gotta front them more, we gotta three-quarter them more and not allow easy passes in there.”
Both teams started 1-for-5 from the field before Yale senior guard Anthony Dallier made a corner 3-pointer. Moore answered with three straight 3-pointers of his own. He made the first one from the right corner, then made one from the left and came back to the right corner to put Temple up 14-7.
Moore then made a floater in the lane and converted a free throw with four minutes left in the first half to put the Owls up 31-23. He finished the first half 5-for-7 from the field with 15 points.
Moore didn’t score in the second half until he sank two free throws at the 6:22 mark. He was 10-for-11 from the free throw line on the night, including nine makes in the second half. Moore beat his previous career-high of 18 points in the Owls’ win against a ranked West Virginia University team in the Preseason National Invitation Tournament final on Black Friday.
Outside of Moore, the rest of the team struggled, shooting 21.4 percent from the field in the first half as Temple jumped out to a 35-28 lead.
“Alani was terrific tonight,” Dunphy said. “His first half was pretty spectacular. It gave us the cushion that we needed to have the advantage in the first half and then down the stretch, he was tremendous making shots.”
Temple was without senior guard Josh Brown for the second consecutive game. Brown missed Saturday’s win against the New Jersey Institute of Technology with soreness in his left Achilles tendon, which he had surgery on May. Brown is averaging 7.2 points and 1.8 assists in five games this season.
“He’s trying his best,” Dunphy said of Brown. “He’s going to meet with the doctors again. Doctor will I’m sure talk to him tonight and he’ll meet with him on Wednesday when we play Cincinnati, too.”
The Owls start their conference schedule on Wednesday against Cincinnati at the Liacouras Center. The Bearcats (10-2) are ranked No. 24 in the Associated Press Top 25.
“It was alright,” Dingle said of the Owls’ play in nonconference games. “I think we gave a good effort. We could have did better. There’s games that I feel like we should have won and games that I feel like we could have been more competitive. But 9-4 that’s not bad. We’re just ready for the next challenge which is Cincinnati and we’ve gotta make a run and make a statement in conference play.”
Evan Easterling and Owen McCue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.