NEWARK, De. – Suiting up for his first game in a Temple uniform Thursday night, there was no indication for Jesse Morgan that he’d find himself in the starting lineup prior to tip-off.
His name was penciled in upon Temple’s official lineup, though, and his near-two-year spell away from regulation basketball would be snapped immediately on his first game of eligibility this season.
“Whether you start or come off the bench, you have to give it 110 percent,” Morgan said. “That was my mindset the whole time, to compete on both ends of the floor.”
Morgan promptly missed his first four shots, but connected from 3-point range on his fifth attempt for his first basket since he was a junior guard for the University of Massachusetts.
Using a 10-man rotation, coach Fran Dunphy’s early-and-often insertion of Morgan and junior Devin Coleman, also eligible for the first time Thursday night, into the Owls’ regular rotation set the tone as the visiting Owls benefited from the added depth en route to topping the University of Delaware, 82-62, at the Bob Carpenter Center.
Though he hadn’t faced in-game Division I competition since he suffered a season-ending ACL tear in a game with the Minutemen against the University of St. Louis on January 10, 2013, it didn’t take him long to let loose early, as his seven first-half shots tied him for the team lead with senior guard Will Cummings.
Morgan hit two of those attempts, but sparked the Owls in the second half and came away tied with the team lead at 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting, along with hitting four long-range jumpers, when the final buzzer sounded.
“It was just getting a feel for the game,” Morgan said. “I had open shots and just shot it.”
Led by Morgan’s exploits from the beyond the arc, Temple hit 16 3-pointers on 32 attempts, and established its long-range game early after shooting 4-of-13 from 3-point range in last Sunday’s 85-62 loss to No. 7 Villanova. While the Owls had not been able to hit more than six 3-pointers in a game prior to Thursday night’s contest, they had already drained eight of them by halftime.
“We needed to get to play with these guys,” Dunphy said. “Delaware’s a very young team with the exception of [senior guard Kyle]Anderson, and he hasn’t played very much. So, it gave us an opportunity. We were able to run some offense and we obviously made a lot of shots. It was important.”
In a game in which the Owls had nine players hit the score sheet, Temple’s balanced attack helped it pull away early. Junior guard Quenton DeCosey netted 16 points to match Morgan, while Cummings chipped in 11 of his own.
Coleman, who transferred from Clemson University last winter, logged 10 minutes and knocked down three long-range shots, his first coming on his first offensive possession on the floor.
“I was [nervous], but I was open and I had to shoot it,” Coleman said of his first bucket. “There were a little nerves in the beginning, but after you run up and down a couple times, you realize you’re just playing basketball, the game you’ve been playing your whole life. It wasn’t too hard to get back out there and settle in.”
Temple averaged 42 percent from the floor (30-of-71) from the floor, while Delaware knocked down 21 of its 52 attempts.
While the Blue Hens (0-8) led for much of the game’s first seven minutes, the Owls took its first lead midway through the first half off a 3-pointer from sophomore forward Mark Williams and held the advantage for the duration of the contest.
Temple (7-4) led by as much as 25 points in the second half en route to notching its seventh win of the season ahead of facing its second ranked opponent in eight days, when the Owls tip off at the Wells Fargo Center against Kansas Monday night at 7 p.m.
“I think we know what the challenge ahead of us is on Monday night,” Dunphy said. “It’ll be a great opportunity for us, but we’ll need to play our best basketball to be where we want to be at the end of the game.”
Andrew Parent can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Andrew_Parent23.