Splitting games on the rocky road

Men’s basketball lost to Duke but beat George Washington. The men’s basketball team showed some resiliency as it split last week’s games that included a 78-61 loss to the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils and

Men’s basketball lost to Duke but beat George Washington.

The men’s basketball team showed some resiliency as it split last week’s games that included a 78-61 loss to the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils and a 57-41-comeback victory over the George Washington Colonials.

Last Wednesday, the Owls travelled to Durham, N.C., to face arguably their toughest opponent of the season – the reigning NCAA Champions, the Blue Devils.

BRIAN DZENIS TTN Freshman forward Anthony Lee and redshirt-junior center Micheal Eric react to a call in Wednesday’s game.

For a while in the first half, it looked like the Owls could pull a possible upset as they paced the Blue Devils by getting 20 first-half points in the paint, half of which came from sophomore forward Rahlir Jefferson.

With 26 seconds in the half, Temple was trailing Duke 28-24, but as the final five seconds ticked down, Duke sophomore guard Seth Curry hit a three to give the Blue Devils a seven-point lead going into the second half. It was the biggest lead for the Blue Devils at the time.

In the second half, that lead grew bigger and bigger as Temple could not find an answer for Duke senior forward Kyle Singler. Singler would score 28 points against the Owls over the course of the game and was aided by senior guard Nolan Smith’s 15 points.

The Blue Devil defense tightened up throughout the second half. Jefferson would only score one more point for the rest of the contest. The only other Owl to score in double digits was senior forward Lavoy Allen, who had a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds.

Another sign of the Duke’s prowess on defense is how the Owls’ shooting percentage decreased from 44 percent in the first half to 36.1 percent in the second half. Even with a 17-point victory, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said he was impressed by how the short-handed Owls fared.

“They’re overcoming some adversity. I thought the kid Jefferson played a great game. When they have the two big guys in, you can cover the paint better,” Krzyzewski said. “With Jefferson in there and Allen playing the way he was, it opened the paint. They ran a pretty good offense with them.”

“Where they’re evolving with those injuries, it’s not a bad place,” he added. “It brings out some of Allen’s talents better from what I saw today.”

Allen’s talents became even more noticeable as he fueled Temple’s comeback win over George Washington on Saturday. The Owls started with a poor showing where the team shot 24.2 percent from the first half, which the Colonials were able to capitalize on to have the lead for the entire half and take a 26-23 lead at halftime.

Coming out of the second half, the scale tipped back in the Owls’ favor as they shot 55 percent from the floor while the Colonials were shooting at a 18.8 percent clip after shooting 44.4 percent in the first half.

“We had poor ball movement in the beginning – guys were taking bad shots and worrying about themselves. Once we kept them off the backboard and moved the ball around, we started to come back,” Allen said. “Maybe we took them too lightly or something. We weren’t really moving the ball, and that’s not what we do.”

Allen led the team with 19 points and 16 rebounds and, in the words of the Temple coaching staff, he couldn’t have played any better.

“One of our assistants, Matt Langel, just mentioned to me as we were walking off the court, ‘I don’t think he can play any better. He did everything he needed to do.’ He’s always in the right spot defensively,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “He made jump shots, made great plays running to the rim, had two assists, he didn’t turn the ball over and he had three blocks, so he was terrific today.”

George Washington coach Karl Hobbs was also singing the praises for Allen’s play.

“Everything he does is very efficient. He plays the game so easy where it looks like he isn’t playing hard, but he plays extremely hard, and he is a very smart basketball player,” Hobbs said. “He never looks like he’s in a hurry, but he’s very quick to get to spots and at one point he pretty much controlled and dominated the game.”

Allen and his teammates have stepped up their defensive play in the face losing redshirt-junior center Micheal Eric for the season and junior forward Scootie Randall is out for an undetermined amount of time.

“We miss Scootie and Mike, but they’re not there with us, so everyone has to do a little bit extra,” sophomore guard Khalif Wyatt said. “So far I think we’re doing a great job.”

With the win over the Colonials, the Owls locked up a bye in next month’s Atlantic Ten Conference tournament. Temple will face Massachusetts on the road on Wednesday. The regular season finale will be on Saturday at the Liacouras Center against La Salle. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. for both games.

Brian Dzenis can be reached at brian.dzenis@temple.edu.

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