For the better part of 25 minutes against Delaware State’s zone defense Sunday, nothing fell in Jesse Morgan’s favor.
The senior guard, who provided a spark from 3-point range and led all Temple scorers in his first two games eligible for action – wins against the University of Delaware last week and No. 10 Kansas last Monday – found himself staring at an 0-for-7 shooting mark at halftime, and missed his first eight attempts from the floor.
As the Owls were mired in a stretch in which they hit one basket in six attempts through the opening 4 minutes, 55 seconds of the second half, and one in which the Hornets cut Temple’s initial lead to four points, Morgan ended the scoreless streak and hit four consecutive 3-point baskets in a 3:55 span to help create a difference on the score line, which ended in Temple’s favor, 66-56, at the Liacouras Center.
Morgan’s final shooting numbers in Sunday’s contest took a likeness to his previous two performances, as he finished with 15 points on five 3-pointers, and ended the game with a 5-of-15 mark from the floor and five assists, which tied his career high.
“I have to give it up to my teammates and my coaches,” Morgan said. “They keep encouraging me. Finally [senior Will Cummings] found me, and he got me started on my first three. My teammates were always encouraging me and the coaches said the next shot’s going to go in, and I kind of locked in.”
Morgan led the Owls (9-4) with 15 shots in the win, and has topped all Temple scorers in attempts from the floor in each of his three games.
“He’s not bashful,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “There are times where you’re going to live with some of the misses that he has, because you know he can go on one of those runs. It does make your team a little bit different when he does make those shots. But, we’d like to spread it around a little bit more.”
Morgan’s five long-range jumpers combined with junior Jaylen Bond’s 12-point, 18-rebound performance to help the Owls through an afternoon in which they pulled out a victory on 33 percent (25-of-77) shooting from the floor.
“We should be better than we were tonight,” Dunphy said. “Give Delaware State a little bit of that credit. I thought they made some really good plays. But for our guys, we talked about it, we just need to play better.”
Bond had eight points and 10 rebounds through the game’s first 10 minutes, and tied the Liacouras Center’s high mark for rebounds with his 18 boards to go along with his second double-double of the season.
“I was just trying to be aggressive crashing the glass on the offensive and defensive end,” Bond said. “I wasn’t really keeping track of how much I had, but I knew I had a lot after the first half. So I was trying to stay aggressive in the second half.”
“He can be a great rebounder,” Dunphy said. “Obviously, he went for 18 tonight, which was pretty impressive. He’s so quick to the ball, and he rescued us in the second half where we weren’t making shots. … He defends just about every position, too.”
Both teams struggled to score from the outset, as Delaware State (5-8) finished its contest on 29-percent (18-0f-62) shooting compared to Temple’s 33-percent average from the floor.
Hornets senior guard Amere May led all scorers with 22 points on a 7-of-18 night from the field.
Playing in their first contest since last Monday’s 25-point thumping of Kansas, the Owls struggled at times from the offensive end, but held the lead for the entirety of the contest. Sunday’s win marked Temple’s final non-conference tune-up before American Athletic Conference play starts Wednesday with a test on the road against Connecticut, the defending national champion, in a New Year’s Eve matchup at 1 p.m.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Morgan said. “We have conference play coming up in a tough conference, so we’re not trying to look past anything. We’re trying to take one game at a time and stay focused as much as we can.”
Delaware State turned the ball over 13 times in the game, while Temple finished with five turnovers … After an 0-for-6 mark in the first half, Morgan went 5-for-5 from 3-point range in the second half … Junior forward Devontae Watson finished the game with four blocks, which tied his career high.
Andrew Parent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Andrew_Parent23.