Free throws nearly cost Temple a win against Rhode Island earlier this week.
Trips to the charity stripe, or lack thereof, did play a factor this time around against Richmond, but the majority of Temple’s mistakes came from a lack of effort.
Temple coach John Chaney might have put it best when he said, simply, that his team is not ready. Not ready to play, not ready to step up and not ready to finish games.
Temple (5-8, 1-3) showed that and more in a 59-52 loss to Richmond last night at the Liacouras Center. The Spiders snapped a three-game losing streak and exposed the Owls’ vulnerability on offense.
Senior guard David Hawkins is practically a one-man scoring machine. He runs the offense. He gives direction. He takes, and makes, the majority of the shots. Hawkins finished with 26 points, the eighth consecutive game he has scored 20-plus points. It’s also the eighth straight game that a teammate has been unable to match his output, let alone score 20.
“I knew the only way we had a chance to win was if I scored,” Hawkins said.
And he was right. Guard Mardy Collins (16 points) was the only other Owl to score in double figures and Temple’s bench was outscored 22-2.
With the lack of help, Hawkins, his coach said, is living and dying the death of a racehorse.
Hawkins only had so much gas in his tank. Hawkins seemed fatigued by the time Temple had chipped away at Richmond’s 11-point lead during most of the second half. Temple eventually cut the Spiders’ lead to four points, but silly fouls kept the Owls from getting any closer. Not including Hawkins, Temple made only 3 of 17 shots from the field in the second half. The Owls shot 35.7 percent from the field in the game.
“Even when David gets into a situation where he can make a pass, the guy can’t knock it down, and that wears on him,” Chaney said. “He might as well take a bad shot than give it to someone else.”
But at the half, Temple led, 26-25, and had Richmond playing at the Owls’ pace. The Spiders didn’t look comfortable playing slowdown and had fits with Temple’s matchup zone defense, which forced five first-half turnovers.
And the Spiders couldn’t capitalize when Temple center Keith Butler was sidelined most of the half after picking up his second foul less than eight minutes into the game (Butler never returned because of his bronchitis). Instead, Richmond took its chances along the perimeter where it only made 3 of 13 shots behind the arc in the first half. Spiders’ leading scorer Mike Skrocki (16.4 ppg) was held to four first-half points on 2 of 10 shooting.
But Skrocki made a complete turnaround in the second half. The senior guard finished with a team-high 17 points after making three three-pointers in a span of 2:29 to put Richmond ahead for good, 39-30, with 13:09 left in the game.
The Spiders shot 6-for-14 from three-point range in the second half, thanks to quick, crisp ball movement along the perimeter.
Freshman Tyreek Byard, who only logged five minutes, spent some time atop of the zone defense in second half and his inexperience showed at the most crucial of times. Not only was he too slow to defend the weak side, but at one point in the first half he committed consecutive turnovers – traveling and too much dribbling – and another late in the game when he plowed into a defender along the baseline.
The road back to the NCAA Tournament for Temple is starting to look blurred. Atlantic Ten powerhouses St. Joseph’s, Xavier and Dayton are all of to a strong start in conference play. Temple’s players and coaching staff realize that and last night Chaney pointed to shooting as big part of the letdown.
“It’s like an ongoing sage,” Chaney said, “and it’s going to be that way until guys start making shots.”
Chris Silva can be reached at email@example.com.