As Temple fell to St. Bonaventure 81-78 Saturday, Jan. 19, the Owls had given the Bonnies their first conference win and allowed them to snap a six-game losing streak. The same Owls team that had beaten No. 3 Syracuse at Madison Square Garden, then 15 days later was within one possession of No. 6 Kansas with two minutes remaining and boasted the Atlantic 10 Conference’s second-leading scorer had surrendered a victory to a previously 7-9 team with zero conference wins.
On paper, the loss looks like it should have come as more of a surprise. To coach Fran Dunphy, it wasn’t.
“We are not as good as people think we are,” Dunphy said. “Especially if we are going to shoot it at the percentage that we have been shooting it recently. When we get open looks we aren’t knocking shots down.”
Temple hasn’t won three consecutive games since Dec. 5, when it knocked off Villanova before losing to No. 2 Duke by 23 points in a game in which they shot 39 percent from the field. The offensive struggles have only continued from there, a statistic that has the Owls worried about their consistency.
“We need shots to start falling more consistently,” senior guard Khalif Wyatt said. “We are getting good shots and good looks, we just aren’t making them. We need to be more consistent at making shots.”
The Owls’ offensive struggles are something they were not as custom to last season. The team is coming off a season in which it was ranked second in the A-10 in scoring offense, field goal percentage and three-point percentage. In a 16-team conference, Temple’s ranking has plummeted this season.
The Owls are ranked second-to-last in field goal percentage, third-to-last in three-point percentage and 10th in scoring offense.
From the season onset, it might have appeared the Owls wouldn’t fall off in these statistical categories. Despite losing Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez, Temple received the much anticipated return of redshirt-senior forward Scootie Randall. Randall, though he had been sidelined all of last season with a knee injury, got back on the scene in a large way.
In the season opener against Kent State, Randall scored a career high 31 points while going 5-for-12 from beyond the arc. Since then, Randall’s scoring has dropped off dramatically.
Randall has eclipsed 20 points in a game once since the season opener, as his scoring average has dropped to 11.3 points. After being widely expected to lead the team in three-point percentage, Randall’s 25 percent mark on the shot ranks above only junior guard Dalton Pepper and sophomore forward Anthony Lee.
“We are going to need Scootie to make more shots for us to be the best team that we can be down the stretch,” Wyatt said. “Scootie is a confident guy, I don’t think he is going to start guessing himself.”
Dunphy, who elected to not start Randall for the only time this season on Jan. 12, against Saint Louis, said the forward sometimes passes up open shots.
“[Randall] is tentative, he is playing very, very tentative,” Dunphy said. “He is in a little bit of a funk and he needs to get out of it for us to be good.”
While Randall acknowledged he has not hit as many shots, he said he “wasn’t worried about it” and that he doesn’t doubt his ability to hit shots.
“As a player who has been playing the game for a while, these kinds of things happen,” Randall said. “It’s not really a slump so much that I’m just trying to find other ways to help the guys out.”
“I don’t want him passing up open jump shots,” Dunphy said. “If you are a shooter, you need to keep shooting and he will get out of it.”
While Dunphy said he is confident Randall will turn his shot around, the Owls’ struggles extend past the forward’s jump-shot ability.
Temple is currently shooting 41 percent from the floor, and 30 percent from the three-point line. These represent 6 and 10 percentage point declines from last season, respectively. If the scoring does not change, the Owls will have fallen from the second-highest scoring team in the A-10 at 75.0 points per game, to the 10th ranked offense in the conference at 68.8 points per game.
Whether it is taking the wrong shots, or not hitting the right ones, Temple knows that its offensive production needs to change in order to have a successful season.
“We are in a funk, no question about it,” Dunphy said. “Our offense is struggling, but we need to find better ways to score baskets at this point. We are in a stretch here where we have to play our best basketball and we are not doing it on the offensive end. Hopefully we will find a way to make easier plays and get easier baskets.”
Temple will get its next chance to improve on its offense tomorrow, Jan. 23, against Dunphy’s former team, the University of Pennsylvania.
Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ibrahimjacobs.