EASTON, Pa. — Disregard the game’s opening fifteen minutes. That wasn’t Temple basketball.
The last twenty-five minutes, however, had a little more Cherry and White zest. Temple powered past Lafayette on Friday night with a 71-55 win at Kirby Sports Center.
“We’re happy to get out of here with a win,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “Because I think [Lafayette is] going to win a lot of games this year.”
The Owls and Leopards played tug-of-war all the way through the first half. Fouls, miscommunication and poor shooting all worked to keep the scoreboard close. A missed dunk by junior guard Ryan Brooks at the 17:01 mark summed up a first half with plenty of miscues.
“We weren’t spot on like we needed to be, we had a couple opportunities at the basket,” Dunphy said. “We did not finish at the basket a couple times.”
Senior guard Dionte Christmas didn’t find his stroke until the 7:59 mark in the first half, when he pulled up on a lengthy jumper from the corner. He finished the game with 29 points and a career-high 12 rebounds.
“It’s just my job to be a leader other than scoring,” Christmas said. “I can be a leader in a lot of different ways.”
Freshman forward Scootie Randall gave the Owls a much needed boost from the bench. He was immediately effective, scoring seven points and hauling in three key rebounds to throw the Leopard defense off-balance.
“He really came in and got a number of offensive rebounds,” Lafayette coach Fran O’Hanlon said. “I felt Scootie Randall did an excellent job of just pushing us under the basket, driving us under and he got them going.”
Christmas netted the team’s final eight first half points to give the Owls a 40-32 cushion heading into the locker room.
In the second half, a scintillating offensive-defensive sequence revived the Owls’ lackluster rhythm. After four straight offensive boards, Christmas rebounded and slammed home a fifth to make the lead 44-34. Then on the other end, junior guard Ryan Brooks chased down Leopard’s senior guard Andrew Brown and swatted the attempted layup away.
In the next ten minutes the Owls went on a 23-10 run that broke the game wide open. While the Leopards staged a brief comeback, the Owls defensive pressure proved overwhelming for the team’s leading scorer, Brown, who went 1-for-10.
“I thought we did a great job on Brown. I thought we really worked hard at it. We made it hard on him to try and score,” Dunphy said.
The Owls outrebounded the Leopards 20-11 in the offense column, and 47-37 overall. Despite senior center Sergio Olmos’ absence due to an ankle injury, the team worked cohesively to clog the paint with bodies.
Senior guard Semaj Inge and junior guard Ryan Brooks each scored in double figures adding 11 and 10 points, respectively.
And in typical fashion, the Atlantic Ten Conference’s two-time leading scorer, Christmas, set the tone.
“He’s one of the guys that you’re going to allow him to shoot some shots that you would never allow somebody to shoot,” Dunphy said.
The Owls improve their record to 3-1, while the Leopards fall to 2-1. The Cherry and White travel to Buffalo for a Nov. 29 matchup, before they return to the Liacouras Center for their home opener against Miami (Ohio) on Dec. 3.
Anthony Stipa can be reached at email@example.com.