Temple coach Fran Dunphy said Tulane’s 37 total points Saturday wasn’t all to his team’s credit.
“They had some open looks and didn’t knock it down,” he said.
The Owls (15-7, 6-3 American Athletic Conference) held the Green Wave to eight first-half points, the fewest points in any half played at the Liacouras Center, en route to their third straight victory – a 55-37 result.
The game marked the second time Temple held an opponent to less than 40 points this season, as the other came in a 40-37 defeat of American University in the season opener.
“We are getting better defensively,” Dunphy said. “I hope that’s the team we can be. Obviously they just scored eight points [in the first half] and the last basket they got was because we overplayed a backdoor cut, which we have harped on enough times.
“We should not have gotten beat on that,” Dunphy added. “But it’s a good sign, and can we build on it? I hope so. But we have two away games this week, so we’ll test our mettle for sure.”
At halftime, Tulane shot 3-for-24 and 0-for-7 from 3-point range, so Dunphy has a point – the Green Wave (13-9, 4-6 The American) missed quite a few shots. But still, the Owls forced nine turnovers, had five blocks, four steals, pulled down 19 rebounds and owned a 20-point lead at halftime.
“Our defense in the first half was incredible,” said junior guard Quenton DeCosey, who led all scorers with 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting and four 3-pointers. “Everybody did a good job, we really locked down on defense. We were getting three, four stops in a row. We did a great job.”
Much of the Owls’ big first-half lead can be credited to DeCosey. The junior hit his first three shots of the game – all 3-pointers – to help the Owls get off to a 12-0 run to start the game.
“It got us off to a great start,” DeCosey said. “Me knocking down shots got contagious, everybody started making shots. I wanted to come out aggressive and my teammates found me.”
Temple led, 28-8, at the break. In the second half, Tulane got within 13 points with 14 minutes, 5 seconds left in the game after going on a 12-0 run of its own. The Green Wave’s run wasn’t unexpected.
“It’s tough to hold a team to that few points throughout the whole games,” freshman Obi Enechionyia, who had 12 points, four rebounds and three blocks, said. “You know a team’s going to make a run, you just try to keep it as small as possible.”
After Tulane went on its run, Dunphy called a timeout and put Enechionyia back in the game. That worked, too, because on the Owls’ first possession after the timeout, Enechionyia drained a jumper from the free-throw line that put the Owls up, 35-20. Temple again pulled away.
The Owls pushed their lead to 20 points again before finishing with the 18-point win. During this three-game winning streak, the Owls have won by an average margin of 22.3 points.
For now, Temple will turn its attention to South Florida, which it plays Wednesday after beating the Bulls, 73-48, last Thursday to start its present streak.
“With 11 teams in the league,” Dunphy said, “everybody is going to have closely-matched games of a team you already played. There’s not much you can do about it. It is what it is, and we know what we got in front of us this week. We have to play really good basketball.”
Junior forward Jaylen Bond, who leads the American Athletic Conference in rebounding, finished the game with 10 boards. “He’s a dynamic rebounder. I think he’s got a great feel for where the ball is coming off the rim. There’s a knack for rebounding, he has it,” Dunphy said. … Will Cummings was fouled hard early in the second half, but was able to stay in the game. He’s been battling a muscle strain in his left leg, which he suffered Jan. 10 against Tulsa. Cummings finished with 13 points, six rebounds and six assists. … Tulane’s leading scorer at halftime was Kajon Mack, who had seven of the team’s eight points. … Jesse Morgan had just three points. He was 1-for-9 and 1-for-8 from beyond the arc.
Tom Dougherty can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @todougherty.