WASHINGTON, D.C. – After a lackluster performance in the Old Spice Classic, where Temple went 1-2, the men’s basketball team responded with back-to-back road wins against Central Michigan and Maryland.
The 2-5 Chippewas were a tougher matchup than they looked on paper, and the Owls needed a huge second half to secure the 65-53 Dec. 1 win. After being down at halftime, 32-24, the Owls needed to get hot to push past Central Michigan – and they did.
The team shot 62 percent from the floor, and junior guard Juan Fernandez went three-for-three from three-point land in the second half to lead the team with 18 points. Junior guard Ramone Moore had 16 points, and senior forward Lavoy Allen had his first double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds in the come-from-behind victory.
After that came another tough road matchup as the Owls visited the Verizon Center on Sunday night to take on Maryland, where the Owls managed to escape with a 64-61 win. Although the teams played on a neutral court as part of the BB&T Classic, it was still a road-game atmosphere for Temple.
“Obviously Maryland doesn’t play their games here, but for us, it’s sort of a road win, and hopefully it’s a game where we make strides as a basketball team,” coach Fran Dunphy said.
“This was a neutral court, but it was an away game for us – everyone was a Maryland fan,” Fernandez said. “I think [the win] showed some toughness for our group. Hopefully this will get us ready for Georgetown and the rest of our non-conference schedule.”
The first half went as planned for the Owls. They were winning, 32-21, held the Terrapins to 28 percent shooting from floor, out-rebounded Maryland, 24-17, and forced nine steals, which provided a nice cushion to save them later in the game.
“I thought our hands were pretty active, I thought we read passing lanes pretty well. It certainly helped put space between us and them,” Dunphy said. “As you saw down the stretch, we needed that space because I thought they were coming after us like gangbusters.”
Maryland made every effort to even the gap. After scoring just four points in the first half, freshman guard Terrell Stoglin had a 12-point breakout performance in the second half, and sophomore forward Jordan Williams led the Terrapins with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
The Owls stayed afloat thanks to their defense and balanced scoring. Four of the starting five Owls finished with double-digits in points. Moore led the team with 16 points, eight of which came from the free throw line. Fernandez and junior forward Scootie Randall had 14 and 10 points, respectively, and Allen had an identical line to the Central Michigan game with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“We need to have [balanced scoring],” Dunphy said. “I don’t think there’s any question that [any] coach is going to tell you the same thing. When you have balanced scoring, they can’t really figure on one guy. Our team isn’t very potent offensively, so when we spread it around, that’s really important for us.”
A key play for the Owls, which allowed them to secure the win with less than a minute left, was when sophomore guard Khalif Wyatt stole a Maryland pass underneath the basket for an easy layup to make the game 61-56 with 27.2 seconds left.
“I was relieved [when Wyatt made the steal], and it was great. I knew he enjoyed it,” Fernandez said. “He started laughing when he went for the layup.”
Up next, the team returns home for the first time in nearly a month to take on Big East opponent Georgetown Dec. 9.
“We’re still trying to find our best basketball,” Fernandez said. “We’re not happy with the Old Spice Classic and our job over there, so we’re trying to improve and trying to be a better team.”
“I think we’re finding it, and each guy is finding their role,” Fernandez added. “I think we proved it today.”
Brian Dzenis can be reached at email@example.com.