During the pre-game shoot-around, Mardy Collins and David Hawkins were warming up near some Pennsylvania hecklers. Both players seemed to get a good laugh at what the rowdy Quakers faithful were yelling at them.
Collins admitted he doesn’t like playing at the Palestra. The fans, the dim lighting, and recent history have proven Temple unlucky against the Quakers.
Prior to tip-off Temple had an extra reason to be motivated. It was coach John Chaney’s 72nd birthday and his players wanted to give him a gift.
“We just wanted to come out and get a win,” Collins said. “We said before the game in the huddle to come out and get this game for coach.”
Temple played consistently for 40 minutes and shot well to come away with a huge 73-69 win over the Quakers at the Palestra last night. For Temple, it’s that time of the year — again. Notorious for their slow starts, the Owls may have their swagger back, which they seem to pick-up in late January and through February.
Before the game, Quakers coach Fran Dunphy presented Chaney with a cake, so along with Chaney’s birthday, the Hall of Fameer collected career win number 699.
The Owls were led by guard David Hawkins’ 26 points on 8-for-16 shooting, eight rebounds, eight assists (a career-high), and five steals. Collins, who has been in a season-long slump, played with gusto. He constantly drove to the hoop against a shorter defender and dropped in 18 points.
Asked if this was the start of a hot streak, Hawkins remained guarded and said: “We got to wait and see and go hard in the next practice.”
Chaney said his team should use this game as a reference to future games.
“We have to get better,” he said. “We do this all the time. We got to let the players know they can play like this with these great teams.”
In last year’s matchup the Quakers scored the first 13 points and never looked back and handed Temple its most lopsided loss ever at the Palestra.
Last night, Hawkins and Collins dominated by taking advantage of Penn’s less athletic and shorter guards right from the start. At one point in the first half the duo combined for 16 straight points.
When Hawkins drew his second foul, the senior went to the bench for the first time in four games. The Owls didn’t hit a field goal during the final four minutes of the half and trailed, 34-32, at intermission.
Penn nailed consecutive threes to pull ahead, 40-35, with 18 minutes, 1 second left in the game. But Hawkins and Collins willed the Owls by executing strong drives to the basket, hitting floaters and mid-range jumpers as the game winded down. With 4:58 left, Hawkins stole the ball and drove down the court for a lay-up to put Temple ahead 62-56.
With less than two minutes left, Hawkins again stole the ball and fed freshman guard Dustin Salisbery for a two-hand dunk, giving Temple a 66-61 lead it would not relinquish.
During practice this week, Chaney told Hawkins that good things would happen if he made his teammates more involved in the offense. The advice proved fruitful and a career-high in assists for Hawkins.
“My mindset coming into this game was not to force shots,” Hawkins said. “Coach let me know that I can’t do it all by myself and for me to show confidence in my teammates.”
Lately the Owls have been shooting terribly. Coming into last night they had shot less than 40 percent in the past six games. Against the Quakers they connected on 44.5 percent of their shots, including 52 percent in the second half.
“All season long coach has been saying David needs some help scoring, so I’ve been coming out aggressive and I guess I found my shot tonight,” Collins added.
The Quakers saw plenty of good shots, but looked reluctant at times. Jeff Schiffner and Tim Begley each had three three-pointers in the first half but managed just three altogether in the second half. As a team they shot 14-for-38 from beyond the arc.
A major factor was the swarming matchup zone by the Owls, which forced 11 turnovers, many of which were timely and led to transition points. Moreover, the Owls defended well without committing many fouls. The Owls made 10 more free throws than Penn.
The Quakers were led by Begley’s 22 points and freshman forward Mark Zoller’s 12 points and 11 rebounds.
“We rushed some things,” Dunphy said. “Their length you can’t simulate. We’ve got to take care of the ball against them.”
Now, with Chaney one victory shy of 700, his Owls will try to get it against Massachusetts at the Mullins Center this weekend.