As his team was about to eclipse the University of Cincinnati’s points allowed total during its 2014-15 campaign Tuesday night, Jaylen Bond’s name reverberated around the Liacouras Center.
After senior guard Jesse Morgan took the ball up-court in transition, he lobbed it to Bond for a one-handed alley-oop dunk that spurred the unified response from the 6,671 in attendance.
The chants preceded a standing ovation to come minutes later, when Temple had sealed a 75-59 victory against Cincinnati, avenging a 31-point loss to the Bearcats exactly three weeks prior, on Jan. 17. The Owls haven’t lost since, and notched their sixth consecutive victory Tuesday night.
“It was crazy,” Bond, a junior forward, said of the chants. “I started laughing. I enjoy it … People were telling me [the dunk] would be on SportsCenter’s Top 10, but I had to get back on defense.”
Along with his 16 points, his best scoring total since Temple’s 63-56 loss to Tulsa on Jan. 10, Bond helped the Owls (18-7, 9-3 American Athletic Conference) force 17 Cincinnati turnovers compared to Temple’s eight.
In fact, coach Fran Dunphy said postgame that Bond, in his first season playing with the Owls after transferring from the University of Texas, has imposed the most significant difference out of any player on the roster this season on the defensive end.
“He’s so versatile that he can guard people on the post and if we get stuck with him on the perimeter with a point guard, you don’t have any fear,” Dunphy said. “He’s such a terrific rebounder as well, and he killed it on the glass [Tuesday night]. He’s the key for us getting better defensively [this season].”
Alongside his point total and four assists, Bond finished with three steals and five rebounds. He remains the conference’s leading rebound-getter with 7.9 boards per game.
Senior guard Will Cummings led the Owls with 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field. If the first scoring play of the game – a Cummings steal and his ensuing layup on the other end – was an indicator, the Jacksonville, Florida native led the way for the Owls, finishing with five assists, three rebounds and four steals.
His health has been of concern for the team since he strained a muscle in his left leg against the University of Tulsa on Jan. 10, and was forced to sit for Temple’s 84-53 defeat to the Bearcats (17-7, 8-4 The American) in Cincinnati. Cummings played all 40 minutes Tuesday night for the first time since his injury.
“Sitting out any game, you want to be out there with your teammates competing,” Cummings said. “Just the way [Cincinnati] kind of embarrassed us at their place was an eye-opener and it set everybody’s fire under them. We wanted to come out here [Tuesday] and make a statement.”
The Owls’ backcourt of Cummings, senior guard Jesse Morgan and junior guard Quenton DeCosey helped lead a Temple offense that had three scorers in double digits against the top-ranked scoring defense in The American. The Owls’ 75 points marks the highest total Cincinnati has allowed this season, surpassing Virginia Commonwealth’s 68 points in a 21-point defeat of the Bearcats on Dec. 20, 2014.
Morgan knocked down four 3-pointers for his 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting, with each of his attempts coming from beyond the arc, while DeCosey finished with nine points and a career-high nine rebounds.
With the win, Temple leapfrogged the Bearcats for third place in the conference standings. While Temple’s previous defeat to Cincinnati remains the Owls’ largest defeat of the season, Dunphy said his team, along with benefitting from a serviceable Cummings, learned from the loss.
“At the end of the first half at Cincinnati, we felt pretty good,” Dunphy said. “We were down one, we got the ball to start the second half and then we just sort of imploded and they exploded. It was a pretty damning defeat, but one thing is we learned something from it, that we could be a pretty good team if we all play together and do what we need to do.”
Freshman Obi Enechionyia missed his second consecutive game with a sprained ankle. Dunphy said he’s hoping to have the forward back in the rotation by Saturday’s conference meeting with East Carolina at the Liacouras Center … Of Temple’s 16 free-throw attempts, Cummings toed the line for 10 of them, hitting seven … The Owls’ 10 steals tied their season high, a mark in which they hit on four previous occasions.
Andrew Parent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Andrew_Parent23.