Men’s basketball coach John Chaney has said it all season: His team does not know how to win when its shots don’t fall.
Chaney issued this sentiment again after the Owls fell to La Salle, 62-56, at Tom Gola Arena Saturday. The Owls struggled to put the ball in the net all afternoon, hitting just 37 percent of their shots. They also couldn’t find an answer for the Explorers’ perimeter game.
“When you find a team that wins because they shoot the ball well, what happens when they don’t shoot well?” Chaney asked of the media. “You have to have something or somebody to carry the day. … And we couldn’t find anyone to step up and do that and we haven’t been able to do that on the road.”
The Owls (12-8 overall, 5-4 Atlantic Ten Conference) continued their losing ways outside of the Liacouras Center. The Owls are 8-1 at their home venue, but just 4-7 away from it.
The loss jarred the Owls from their outright possession of second place in the A-10, and drew them into a four-way tie for fifth place with the Explorers, Rhode Island and Richmond.
Junior guard Dustin Salisbery, who shot just 25 percent, said the Owls’ home-road records are merely a coincidence.
“We struggle against teams that press us, as well as teams that play a zone and it just so happens that every team we have been playing on the road has been pressuring us,” Salisbery said.
The Explorers’ perimeter game baffled the Owls and their matchup zone defense. The Explorers (13-7 overall, 5-4 A-10) consistently found guard Darnell Harris and forward Stephen Smith uncovered in the corners. The duo combined for 10 three-pointers. Of the Explorers’ 43 field goal attempts, 28 of them came from beyond the arc.
“They were just rotating the ball fast,” Salisbery said. “They found a wide-open man and they were knocking down a lot of shots.”
The Owls began the game by pushing the ball inside to sophomore center Wayne Marshall, who accounted for the team’s first seven points as the Owls built a 10-5 lead within the game’s first five minutes.
Led by Harris and Smith, the Explorers battled back to take a 19-16 lead with six minutes remaining in the half. La Salle would hold the lead the rest of the way. Temple kept within striking range, but every slight comeback was countered by an onslaught of La Salle treys.
With the Owls down, 58-50, and with just over four minutes to play, Marshall pulled the Owls closer with four consecutive free throws. He also had a steal that helped bring the Owls to within two points, at 58-56.
But that’s as close as the Owls would get. A bit later, the Owls were down, 60-56, when senior forward Antywane Robinson sunk a three-pointer to narrow the Explorers’ lead to just one with 22 seconds remaining. But Marshall was called for a moving pick, as Smith tried to rotate around Marshall to get to Robinson. The basket was nullified and the game was the Explorers’.
The loss halted the Owls’ three-game win streak, the team’s third such streak this season. The Owls have not had a four-game win streak since Feb. 2004.
“Sometimes we just can’t get over the hump,” Salisbery said. “Like I said, we’re just going to come out to practice and play the type of game where we can just play defense and create offense.”
If the Owls’ history is any indication of their future, the team will rebound following Saturday’s loss. Five of their final eight games this season will be played at the Liacouras Center and six of them are in February, a month in which the Owls have won 27 of 34 games since 2002.
The Owls had won their previous four games against La Salle and 14 of the last 16 games. … The two schools played each other in two regular season games for the second time since the 1965-66 season. They had done so previously in 2000-01 season. … Before beating Temple, La Salle had lost 15 consecutive Big 5 games. … Temple’s 2-3 record in the Big 5 this season marked the second time in the last 27 seasons that the Owls have concluded Big 5 play with a losing record.
The Owls travel to Charlotte tomorrow to take on the A-10 newcomers. The 49ers (13-8 overall, 6-3 A-10) are led by forward Curtis Withers, who recorded his 12th double-double of the season in their win over Dayton Saturday. Withers averages 16 points and 11.2 rebounds per game.
John Kopp can be reached at email@example.com.