The men’s basketball team failed to upend ninth-ranked Duke Wednesday at the Wachovia Center, losing 74-64, but Temple did manage to reverse its fortune in one aspect from the teams’ meeting last season – rebounding.
The Owls out-rebounded the Blue Devils, 45-39, a huge improvement over last season’s matchup, when Duke controlled the glass, 49-28.
The addition of freshman forward Lavoy Allen, who totaled six rebounds, has a lot to do with the Owls improvement on the boards, as does the play of junior center Sergio Olmos, who lacks the physicality many would like to see from a 7-footer, but has made healthy strides. It also should be noted that Duke was playing with a smaller lineup than usual, due to injuries.
But the Owls have done a much better job at team rebuilding, a concept they never quite grasped as teams consistently beat them on the glass last season.
Ryan Brooks became the latest Owl to buy into the theory, as the sophomore guard tied Duke’s DeMarcus Nelson for a game-high nine rebounds. The performance more than doubled Brooks’ pervious career-best of four rebounds, set on four occasions.
“Coach [Fran Dunphy] is always stressing during the season and practices that I have to become a much better rebounder,” Brooks said. “… Use my athleticism to get to the boards and help this team. That’s what I tried to do today.
“I’ve always been a pretty good rebounder,” Brooks continued. “In high school I was getting around eight rebounds a game. I knew if I put my mind to it and just used my athleticism, box out and everything, that I would get some rebounds. I tried to focus on that today.”
In most games Brooks has primarily served as a three-point threat. He entered the game averaging just 2.1 rebounds in 26.8 minutes of playing time. In contrast, guards Dionte Christmas and Mark Tyndale averaged 6.5 and 6.2 boards per game, respectively, though they both see about 10 more minutes of action.
“We’ve asked him to be a better a rebounder, and I think he tried harder to do that tonight,” Dunphy said of Brooks.
Brooks played 30 minutes against Duke, but struggled to find his shot. He hit only 2-of-10 field goals, both three-pointers. Still, he said finding other ways to contribute, such as rebounding, is something every player can do.
“When one of the better aspects of my game isn’t going so well,” Brooks said, “there’s other things we can do to go out there and help our team and try and get a ‘W.'”
Much had been made of Duke sophomore Gerald Henderson returning to play in Philadelphia for the first time since his days at Episcopal Academy, but his return also brought about a reunion of another sort.
Henderson and Temple point guard Luis Guzman, a sophomore, played on the same AAU team for three years. Duke and Temple faced off last season at Cameron Indoor Stadium, but Guzman only totaled one minute of action. Henderson notched five points, six rebounds and two assists in that game, a 73-55 Duke victory.
This time Guzman, in his ninth start, notched three points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals. Henderson, who entered the game averaging 13.3 points per game, tallied five points, five rebounds, two steals and an assist.
Guzman said he has seen better from Henderson.
“He played okay, but he didn’t play as well as I thought [he could],” Guzman said. “He didn’t play up to his potential, but he’s a hard-worker.”
FOUL LINE WOES
For the third straight game, the Owls struggled to hit their free throws, sinking just 18-of-27 attempts, a 67 percent clip. The stretch has been a bit abnormal for the Owls, who entered the game ranked fourth in the Atlantic Ten Conference in free throw percentage, at a 74 percent success rate.
The Owls shot 46 percent against Eastern Michigan on Dec. 22 and 59 percent against Florida on Dec. 29.
Fran Dunphy, on whether Sergio Olmos needs to play with more of an edge:
“I don’t know that Sergio is an edge kind of guy, to be honest with you. I wish he was. I wish we had some nastiness, but he’s Serg. I love him. There was one play, where [it was like], ‘Just go dump that [darn] thing.’ He didn’t, but … I think he would have felt better about himself. But he’s a great guy and he’ll keep plugging around.”
John Kopp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.