More than one month ago, Temple defeated then-No. 3 Villanova in a Big 5 game.
Wednesday, Penn, 1-10 entering the game, had moments when it looked like it would do the same to No. 19 Temple.
“It happened for us against Villanova, and I think the opposite [almost] happened today,” sophomore guard Juan Fernandez said.
With a little more than eight minutes remaining in the game, the Quakers (1-11 overall, 0-2 Big 5) had cut the Owls’ lead to just five points. But Fernandez and senior guard Ryan Brooks scored 11 of the team’s next 15 points to help provide the final margin of victory at 60-45.
Temple (14-3 overall, 2-0 Big 5) did not look to its guards early, though, instead choosing to work the ball inside through forwards Micheal Eric and Lavoy Allen. The duo scored the Owls’ first 12 points before Fernandez hit back-to-back 3-pointers.
“We had an opportunity to go inside early, and that was something that we wanted to focus on, getting the ball to Mike and Lavoy early in the game,” Brooks said. “We were just looking to find them. I think we got away from that a little bit and settled for jump shots. Again, I think in the second half, there might have been times where we settled for jump shots. Being aggressive, getting to the basket, that’s when good things happened.”
Eric and Allen finished with a combined 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Still, the Owls outscored the Quakers 36-20 in the paint and 19-2 in second-chance points. Brooks and Fernandez led the way for the Owls with 15 and 12 points, respectively. The two had five and six points before the second half started but jump-started the offense when Penn narrowed the gap to 45-40.
“One of the things Coach Dunphy said before the game was that they have nothing to lose, and they’re going to come into the game with that mindset,” Brooks said. “I think not only the young guys but the older guys as well have to be aware of that. I think there were stretches where we were coming down where maybe Penn had a little bit more fire, and we can’t let that happen.”
“I thought they played harder than us,” Dunphy added. “I thought they wanted the game more than we did. We knew we had to have it, but their will was greater than ours. We just found a way to win the game. I think we learned a valuable lesson. It’s a game that they obviously have the opportunity to knock off Temple, and that’s what they want to do. We were almost in a protect mode more than in an attack mode.”
The Quakers led once during the game at 5-4, but every time the Owls looked as though they were about to pull away, Penn answered. Temple led, 33-24, at halftime thanks to a 9-2 run. The Owls then opened the second half with seven straight points before Penn scored 10 consecutive points of its own four minutes later to climb within five. The Quakers would get no closer, despite being outrebounded by just two and holding the Owls to 29.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc and a turnovers-to-assists ratio of 9-to-11.
Game Notes: Actor Denzel Washington and his wife sat behind press row to take in the Big 5 game. Washington’s son, Malcolm, is a freshman walk-on for the Quakers…Governor Ed Rendell also attended his first Penn game of the season…The game marked the first home game for Penn’s interim coach Jerome Allen, who played for Dunphy during his time at Penn. “At the end of the day, this game wasn’t about Fran Dunphy and Jerome Allen, it was about Lavoy Allen and Ryan Brooks and Temple versus Penn,” Allen said. “The end result was that they won the game, so over the course of 40 minutes, they executed better. We had a lot of bright spots. We battled back. We cut it to five.”
Jennifer Reardon can be reached at email@example.com.