After taking 35 3-point attempts in the Charlotte loss, Temple went back to its inside game in the La Salle win.
A little more than 24 hours after I declared the men’s basketball team “The Team to Beat” in the Atlantic Ten Conference, Temple lost to the unranked Charlotte 49ers, 74-64.
Turn off the lights. Bring in the bulldozers. The season is over, right?
Even as I watched players like sophomore guard Juan Fernandez and senior guard Ryan Brooks avoid getting run over by an enthused Charlotte crowd who rushed the court, I could not help but think that the loss was not that big of a deal.
Sure, nobody likes to lose, but if it has to happen, losing to a team as good as Charlotte is the best way to do it. After all, the 49ers had already traveled to Louisville and routed the Cardinals, 87-65. Sophomore guard Derrio Green scored 20 points for the 49ers in that game, before he scored 26 against the Owls. It is difficult to defend against an opponent simply going off against you.
Also, the 49ers have a RPI lower than 50, and the matchup was in Charlotte, so the loss was hardly a bad one.
Despite all this, the Owls used the loss to Charlotte as both motivation and a learning experience, Temple coach Fran Dunphy said.
“We learned some lessons against Charlotte,” Dunphy said. “It’s a really tough environment to play in. It’s not like that was a real letdown for us, by any stretch. They’re a really good basketball team.”
True to Dunphy’s word, the Owls improved considerably in Saturday’s 64-52 win against La Salle. They won despite off shooting days by Fernandez and Brooks and instead relied more on unsung heroes off the bench to provide a balanced attack. The Owls shot 47.4 percent in the game, while limiting the Explorers to a mere 29.8 percent shooting. It marked the third time all year that the Owls have held an opponent to less than 30 percent shooting from the field.
More importantly, the Owls learned from their mistakes on offense. After jacking up a season-high 35 3-point attempts in the loss to Charlotte, the Owls focused more on getting production in the paint, sophomore guard Ramone Moore said.
“I think every game it should be a mindset [to get production in the paint],” Moore said. “With Lavoy [Allen] and Mike [Eric] in foul trouble down in Charlotte, we were settling for a lot of 3s, which hurt us. We needed those guys to get the ball in the middle and drop it down. In practice, we worked on that a lot. I think we did good against La Salle’s zone today.”
Individual players also used the Charlotte loss as motivation. Sophomore center Micheal Eric, who had two points and three fouls in 11 minutes of play against Charlotte, scored a career-high 13 points last Saturday. Bouncing back from a bad performance fueled him, Eric said after the game.
“After a bad performance against Charlotte, I just wanted to step up,” Eric said. “My team needed me today to step up. I think I had to come out aggressive, and I did.”
Temple is in good shape from here on out. Even though every conference game is tough, the Owls have a fairly easy remaining schedule. Other than a trip to Richmond and a couple home games against Rhode Island and Dayton, no other games scream “tough” to me. Assuming Temple plays to its talent level, the Owls should roll into the A-10 Tournament with around 25 wins to their credit. For the first time in a long time, the Cherry and White will not be fighting for a NCAA Tournament spot in Atlantic City, N.J. They will be jockeying for a higher seed instead.
By the time the NCAA Tournament comes around, the loss to Charlotte will be nothing but a distant memory.
Kyle Gauss can be reached at email@example.com.