With a win over New Mexico on Wednesday night at the Liacouras Center, the Owls ordered a third helping of the Preseason NIT with extra MSG.
Temple’s 61-49 victory sends them to a Nov. 22 tournament semifinal game at New York City’s Madison Square Garden against the winner of Friday night’s Indiana-South Alabama game. South Alabama upset Marquette in the first round, while Indiana handled Pepperdine in its first official post-Bobby Knight game.
In the game, Temple head coach John Chaney was forced to go with three guards for most of the contest as the Lobos erased Temple’s size advantage by doubling up on their big men.
“It’s very difficult to play with two big guys on the floor at this level because the game has moved to guard play,” Chaney said. “The only way we could open the floor up tonight was to go four up and one in.”
Junior guard Lynn Greer led the Owls with 18 points on the evening. After struggling offensively against Delaware, Greer put together a solid offensive performance against the Lobos, shooting 6-for-15 from the floor and a solid 4-for-8 from beyond the arc.
The Owls fell behind early in the first half, but put together a late 11-point run to enter halftime with a 29-21 lead.
The Owl’s defense then took control in the second half. Smothering the Lobos fast-break attack, Temple forced 10 second-half New Mexico turnovers.
Temple capitalized on the Lobos turnovers with a barrage of three-point shots. They knocked down six threes in the second half to put the game out of reach for New Mexico.
In addition to Greer’s solid offensive performance, senior guard Quincey Wadley also rebounded from a poor game against Delaware as he chipped in 15 points and six assists in the contest.
On Monday night, a grizzled veteran and a couple of wide-eyed newcomers helped the healing begin for the Owls.
After a ragged first half against Delaware, Temple looked like a team missing three starters. But third-year starting center Kevin Lyde took control of the paint, leaving spot heroics to new starter Alex Wesby and freshman reserve guard David Hawkins.
The Owls survived a seven-point second half deficit to roast the Blue Hens 56-49.
“Kevin gave us a fine effort,” Chaney said. “I believe he can shoot now. He played in the summer league and he scored… 54 points; I couldn’t believe it. He was playing against Little Sisters of the Poor, I guess. But he proved to me that he can shoot the ball so we had to take it to him.”
With 11:27 left in the game, Delaware guard Billy Wells hit a jumper from the corner, giving the Blue Hens a six-point edge. Temple, plagued by penalties and miscues, was a confused team. But at that moment, the Owls began to fight.
Junior guard Lynn Greer made a steal in the Blue Hen backcourt and streaked for the far basket. He was well covered on the break and his lay-up attempt would have been ill fated if not for Hawkins.
The freshman was trailing the play, and he put back Greer’s miss to salvage a good play.
A Wells three-pointer later, Temple was down seven. That’s when Lyde took over.
The 6-9 post player scored seven of the Owls’ next 14 points and cornerstoned a 14-0 Temple run. His five-foot hook tied the game with 7:16 left to play.
Less than one minute later, Wesby — looking a whole lot like departed small forward Mark Karcher – rose up and buried a three-point jumper from the corner to give the Owls their first and final lead of the second half.
Wesby, a junior who sat out his freshman season as a partial qualifier, played sparingly last year and has had to pay a lot of dues on his way to his role as the starting small forward. His lead-grabbing three-pointer seemed to signal his arrival.
“It felt great because I was missing a lot of shots,” Wesby said. “When I hit that big three, it was a great release. I feel as though my opportunity has come up and I’ve just got to take advantage of it.”
Temple’s run pushed the lead to seven points, but Delaware didn’t go away. The Blue Hens trimmed the difference to 52-49 with two minutes left, but Hawkins still had some coming out to do.
Entering the game when Rollerson fouled out, Hawkins got his hands on an offensive rebound off of a Wesby miss. On the other side of a time out, he drained a 17-foot jumper that gave Temple a five-point edge with a minute left.
A Hawkins steal at the other end of the floor cemented the result in favor of Temple. His presence in the first game impressed everyone at the Liacouras Center, but didn’t surprise Temple coach John Chaney, who has been pointing to Hawkins as the most promising newcomer since the very first practice.
“We needed some help from a guy like David Hawkins who came in and gave us quite a lift,” Chaney said. “A great lift.”
Lyde overcame early foul trouble to score a game-high 21 points. He was unstoppable once he got the ball in the post, shooting 10-of-15 from the floor, including 6-of-8 in the second half. He was also Temple’s leader on the boards, pulling down nine rebounds.
Another returning starter, Quincy Wadley, had a sub-par game, drawing the wrath of Chaney.
“I’ve never seen Quincy play as bad as he did tonight,” Chaney said. “There’s no way I could believe that he could play that poorly.”
But Wadley was quick to praise Hawkins, who ably filled the gap left by the veterans’ inconsistency.
“David’s the fastest learner out of all the new guys,” Wadley said. “I was just happy that he could contribute, especially in a tight game. When you’ve got a freshman stepping up in a tight game, that’s good for him and good for the team, and he’s just going to improve from here.”
The Owls will next face an old friend as they travel to meet Coach John Calipari’s Memphis team in Tennessee on Friday night. Chaney and former UMass head man Calipari may make pre-game light of their colorful history.
“I told John, ‘This is what we’re going to do. You’re going to get my mask and put it on; we’re going to have t-shirts and sell them,'” Chaney said. “We’re going to make a lot of money selling it. You’re going to get half and I’m going to get half. And at the beginning of the game when they announce out teams, you’re going to come walking toward me and I’m going to let you choke me this time.”