Owls stunned by La Salle

A dejected Fran Dunphy answers question post-game. (TTN/John Mehler)

Did anyone see that coming?

The men’s basketball team was upset by La Salle, 70-63, Thursday night at the Liacouras Center. Explorers’ junior guard Rodney Green did the Owls in, as he hit for 22 points, eight assists and five steals to lead his team to a surprising victory.

With the game tied at the 8:11 mark of the second half after a fairly close first 32 minutes, Green hit a long 3-pointer to give the Explorers a lead they would never relinquish. The trey jump-started a 13-6 La Salle run that propelled the visitors to a seven-point lead with over two minutes to play.

While the Owls made a last-ditch comeback effort, when senior guard Semaj Inge’s 3-pointer clanked off the front rim with his team down by four and under a minute on the clock, the game was basically over. The Explorers hit their free-throws and then celebrated a huge win for their program.

“I give credit to La Salle, they did a terrific job on both ends of the floor,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “They deserved to win the game. Their will was certainly greater than ours tonight.”

The loss sent Temple to 17-10 overall and 9-4 in the Atlantic Ten Conference, and with a showdown at Dayton looming this Saturday, one might suspect that the Owls were looking ahead.

But Dunphy and senior guard Dionte Christmas, who led the team with 19 points, claimed that wasn’t the case.

“Oh, I don’t think so,” Dunphy said. “There is no need to that, we need to win every game we can. This was an opportunity to play a city game, a Big 5 game. There was no need to get caught napping.”

“No I don’t think we look past La Salle because there was no reason to,” Christmas added. “I think we just didn’t pay attention to every detail we were supposed to pay attention to.”

However, Green did mention that he saw something in the Owls that showed they were not quite mentally prepared for the contest.

“That’s why I wanted to keep pushing the ball,” Green said. “It seemed like they were a little tired or something. I don’t know what it was, it seemed like they were a little slow.”

But Dunphy again was adamant that his team simply got beat.

“We had our opportunities tonight and we chose not to accept it,” the Owls’ third-year coach said.

Christmas was first in line in that regard, as the Owls’ co-captain shot a paltry 3-11 from beyond the 3-point line, a number that included a number of open looks. Combined with freshman guard Juan Fernadez’s 1-5 for effort, and the Owls went on to shoot just 29.2 percent from downtown.

“I thought myself and [junior guard] Ryan [Brooks] had a lot of great open looks, it’s just [that] some of them we didn’t knock down,” Christmas said. “Some of them went in, but a lot of them we didn’t knock down. I don’t think that the defense they switched into surprised us at all. We were definitely well-prepared.”

So, with that, perhaps that’s why Christmas instead blamed the loss on La Salle simply putting forth more effort than his Temple team.

“I thought those guys wanted it more than us and they played better than us,” Christmas said. “And they come out with the win.”

Helping La Salle (15-12, 6-7) get that win was a 22-2 advantage on fast-breaks, something that along with all the missed shots, didn’t please Dunphy.

“Obviously our transition defense wasn’t as good as it need to be,” Dunphy said. “Plus, when we had open looks, we just didn’t knock shots down. I thought that was a big key to the game.”

Now with the Owls tied for third with Dayton in the A-10 standings and that big game coming in less than 48 hours, Dunphy alluded to last year’s 78-76 loss to a poor Fordham team, a game in which the Owls bounced back from with a seven-game winning streak that sent them to NCAA Tournament.

“I’m hoping that we have the same poise and the same energy and enthusiasm that we carried through last year,” Dunphy said. “I’m hoping we have it again this year.”

Saturday’s Temple-Dayton game will televised locally by Comcast Sportsnet at 4 p.m. They return home Thursday for a Senior Night matchup with Saint Joseph’s.

Game Notes: Inge picked up a technical foul in the first half…Dunphy was less-than-pleased when asked about it post-game… Fernandez played the entire second half, though Dunphy made no commitment to that becoming a re-occurring theme…Meanwhile, sophomore forward Craig Williams played just five first-half minutes…The loss sent the Owls to 1-2 in the Big 5…The loss also snapped an eight-game home winning streak.

Todd Orodenker can be reached at todd.orodenker@temple.edu.

Front Page Photo: John Mehler, TTN.

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