Owls free-throw their way to a win

The men’s basketball team hit 38 free-throws, with Semaj Inge equaling his career-high 19 points, in a 74-65 victory over Richmond.

Sometimes, they can’t all be easy.

Or pretty.

Or entertaining.

But, as the old cliché goes, a win is a win.

Saturday night at the Liacouras Center, the men’s basketball team downed Richmond, 74-65, as it hit 38 free-throws and shot just 36 percent from the field.

Senior guard Semaj Inge tied his career-high for the third time this season, notching 19 points to lead the Owls. In addition, freshman guard Juan Fernandez had a career-high 15 points, while senior guard Dionte Christmas chipped in 17 points and a career-high 13 rebounds.

Christmas shot 13-14 from the line and Fernandez shot 10-12, as both helped the Owls set a Liacouras Center record for free throws made.

Temple (12-8 overall, 4-2 Atlantic Ten Conference) rebounded from its loss Wednesday at Rhode Island despite a totaling just 16 points in the first half. Yet, Richmond (11-10, 3-3) had just 13 points at halftime, so it wasn’t all bad for the Owls.

“Obviously to get 74 points and only get 16 field goals is unusual,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “Of course later in the game, they were putting us on the foul line and we knocked it out pretty good down the stretch, which was nice.”

The Owls shot 79 percent from the charity strike, including a 34-for-40 mark in the second half. The Spiders committed 33 fouls, as three players fouled and another had four personal fouls.

Inge, who had nine of those free-throws, had a pretty simple response to a second half that seemed to drag on forever.

“If we didn’t hit our free-throws, it probably would have been a closer game,” he said.

Another reason for the Owls keeping the Spiders at a distance in the second-half was the defense, as only a late second-half surge from junior guard David Gonzalvez (36 points) kept the Spiders hanging around.

Even after the sloppy first-half in which neither team looked like it wanted to score.

“I thought our total, overall defense was pretty good against that system that [Richmond] runs,” Dunphy said. “I knew we would have some problems scoring, didn’t think it would be that difficult in the first half.”

One might point to Dunphy for the Owls’ improvements in the final 20 minutes, with the third-year coach perhaps giving his team a lengthy speech at the break.

But despite the early woes, this locker-room meeting wasn’t any different from the norm.

“He always yelling a lot,” Inge said. “It’s always the same halftime every time.”

After the half, the Owls went to a four-guard lineup with sophomore forward Lavoy Allen acting as the big man and Inge, Fernandez, Christmas and junior guard Ryan Brooks also on the court.

That lineup helped the Owls pull away from the Spiders, and helped them avoid costly turnovers down the stretch.

“I just think our guys stayed focus,” Inge said. “Everybody that was back there, they didn’t let the pressure get to them. Especially Juan, he’s as cool as it gets under the pressure, so I think everybody did a good job with that.”

But for Fernandez, who is still getting acclimated to living in the United States, this is all still a work in progress.

“I’m still a little bit nervous when I get in the game,” Fernandez said. “With a couple more games, I’ll start feeling more comfortable. [I’ll] get to know my teammates more, and that will help me too.”

The Owls return to action Thursday for a showdown with No. 10 Xavier. The game will be televised by ESPN at 7 p.m. They return home Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. for a rematch with Rhode Island.

Game Notes

The game was the second leg of a doubleheader with the women’s basketball team, which defeated Dayton, 62-52…Allen had 10 points and 11 rebounds…Both coaching staff wore sneakers for the Coaches vs. Cancer charity…After a fan ran on the court last game, the Liacouras Center staff set up barriers in front of the sections along each baseline.

Todd Orodenker can be reached at todd.orodenker@temple.edu.

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