Over the past few weeks, Fran Dunphy has talked a lot about the importance of winning the rebounding battle – particularly on the offensive glass. Temple had more offensive and total rebounds than La Salle on Saturday, but it didn’t get the Owls (5-11, 0-5 American Athletic Conference) a win. They fell 74-68 to the Explorers (11-6, 3-0 Atlantic 10 Conference) at the Palestra.
Temple grabbed 36 rebounds, while La Salle got 31. Temple more than doubled La Salle’s output on the offensive glass, winning 15-7. Redshirt-junior forward Anthony Lee had seven offensive rebounds on his own. The Explorers overcame that by shooting 52.8 percent from the field and 60.8 percent in the second half. Dunphy said he isn’t sure if the La Salle shooting had to do with his team’s weariness.
“If it is fatigue, there’s not a lot we can do about it,” Dunphy said. We’re pushing ourselves as good as we can. We’re getting proper rest. We’re not going crazy at practice. [We’re] trying to do a much more mental approach than physical. It’s just one of those things.”
Lee put up 19 points and 15 rebounds. The rebounding mark is a career high, and it’s his eighth double-double of the year.
“He’s statistically having a very good season going for himself,” Dunphy said. “A couple of things I was happy about was a couple of stickbacks off of missed shots. When he can get offensive rebounds and stickbacks that helps us dramatically… It just gives you so much energy.”
One other affect the lack of depth is having is that players are playing more conservatively to avoid being called for fouls.
“I have to pick my spots when it comes to that,” Lee said. “You never know how the referee is going to call it. Sometimes you jump up and he might say that you ran into him.”
Sophomore guard Quenton DeCosey got in early foul trouble and sat on the bench for the first time in the past four games. He led all scorers with 21 points in 27 minutes.
“Coming into the second half, I was a little rusty in the first couple minutes,” DeCosey said. “But I got in my groove.”
La Salle won the tip, and junior forward Jerrell Wright opened the scoring with a layup. Sophomore center Devontae Watson answered with a tip-in to tie the game at 2. The Explorers then went on an 8-3 run, punctuated by two and-ones.
Temple fought back after that, pulling to a tie after a Pepper three. Senior guard Sam Mills then hit a three in response to give La Salle a 17-14 lead. Pepper hit another three to tie the game, but Mills hit a two to stave off Temple. A Watson basket gave Temple the tie again, and freshman guard Josh Brown gave Temple its first lead at 21-19.
The Owls steadily increased their lead over the next few minutes, holding a 29-24 lead with 5:42 to go in the first half. La Salle came back to tie the game at 31 behind five points from senior guard Tyrone Garland. Senior guard Tyreek Duren hit a three to put La Salle in the lead again. After a few missed shots, junior forward Steve Zack got a layup. Pepper missed a floater, and the Explorers missed a halfcourt shot as the buzzer sounded. The halftime score was 36-31 La Salle.
The second half began with fairly even play from both sides, with the Explorers taking a 42-35 lead into the first media timeout. Temple cut the lead to one, but Zack responded with a layup on the other end and Garland hit a three to give La Salle a 51-45 lead at the second media timeout.
The Explorers continued to pull away, stretching their lead to 57-46 after a layup by Wright. The teams traded baskets until a Temple timeout with the Explorers up 62-51. The Owls then went on a 9-2 run before a La Salle timeout with 4:18 to go.
Garland beat the shot clock with a jumper on the ensuing possession, giving La Salle a 66-60 lead. After a miss on both ends, Lee hit a layup. Duren responded with a three, giving La Salle a 69-62 advantage. Sophomore guard Quenton DeCosey missed a three, and Garland got fouled on the other end with 1:34 to go. He made one. Pepper got fouled on the other end and made both. After La Salle missed a one-and-one free throw, DeCosey made a layup to bring the game within four. Temple got possession off a jump ball, and Pepper made a layup with 38.5 seconds to go.
La Salle held the ball until Brown got called for a foul with 15.6 seconds to go. Duren made both shots. Temple turned the ball over on the other end, leading to two made shots from Garland.
“We’ve just got to stay positive,” DeCosey said of the losing streak. “Stay together. Positivity is the key.”
Evan Cross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @EvanCross.