Owls focused on defense for AAC opener

Temple men’s basketball will go up against Houston today for their first conference game of the season.

Senior forward De'Vondre Perry surveys the court during the Owls' game against the New Jersey Institute of Technology at the Liacouras Center on Dec. 19. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Fresh off a 72-60 win against the New Jersey Institute of Technology on Dec. 19, Temple University men’s basketball (1-0, 0-0 The American Athletic Conference) will take on Houston (5-0, 0-0 The American) on the road at 8 p.m. today in the Owls’ first conference game of the season. 

As the Owls face off against the Cougars, who are ranked sixth in the Associated Press’ Top 25 men’s college basketball rankings, Temple will have to stay out of foul trouble and hone in on defending junior guard Quentin Grimes and redshirt-senior guard DeJon Jarreau. 

Grimes averages a team-leading 19.6 points per game this season while also leading the Cougars in rebounds per game. In his last game on Dec. 20 against Alcorn State University, Grimes put up 27 points while making all his free throws and 50 percent of his 3-point attempts. 

Jarreau leads the Cougars in assists and steals this season. He recorded seven out of the team’s 20 assists against Alcorn State. The Owls will want to keep a steady coverage on Jarreau at all times since he is a consistent playmaker for their offense.

On Saturday, Temple’s offense outscored NJIT by 12 points in the first five minutes and the Owls were able to maintain a steady double-digit lead throughout the remainder of the game.

Temple’s senior forward De’Vondre Perry was an asset for the Owls against NJIT, as he had a double-double in the first half of the game with 12 points and 14 rebounds. 

Perry ranks third in the NCAA division I men’s basketball leaders in rebounds. It’s important for Perry to execute rebounding numbers for the Owls after losing Nate Pierre-Louis, their leading rebounder from last season. 

The Owls’ rotation was a big question going into the NJIT game, but head coach Aaron McKie decided to start Perry, junior forward Jake Forrester, senior forward J.P Moorman II, freshman guard Jeremiah Williams and redshirt-freshman guard Damian Dunn.  

Williams and Dunn played well against NJIT despite it being their first game together. Williams had four rebounds, four assists and 11 points while Dunn led Temple in scoring against NJIT with 18 points and made 10 of his 13 free throw attempts. 

“We have a pretty close relationship off the court, but that transitioned onto the court against NJIT,” Dunn said. “Williams made big and smart decisions for us, and we’ll see that going into Houston.”  

Five benched Owls saw the court on Saturday, but the starting lineup will most likely remain the same going into Tuesday’s game. 

Houston has five games under their belt going up against Temple. The Cougars recently came off a seven-day pause on all basketball activity due to COVID-19-related issues in the program and resumed practices on Dec. 15. 

In their previous game against Alcorn State, the team had just nine eligible players on their roster, ESPN reported. 

McKie holds high standards for the Owls and believes the NJIT game was a learning experience, but Temple will look to fix their errors in practice before their matchup with Houston, he said.  

“We had some careless turnovers, we were undisciplined in fouling and putting NJIT on the foul line, we’ll learn from this,” McKie added.

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