NEWARK, Del. – Junior forward Lavoy Allen and senior guard Ryan Brooks finished one point and one rebound shy of posting double-doubles in the season opener.
But the men’s basketball team defeated Delaware, 76-56, in the first game of the Philly Hoop Group Classic, regardless.
The Blue Hens (0-1) jumped out to a 5-0 lead, but the Owls (1-0) used two separate runs of 9-0 and 15-0 to pull away early and led, 40-19, at halftime. Delaware never got closer than 17 points after that, though the Blue Hens came within one point of matching the Owls’ scoring in the second half.
“I think it was team play at that point, but I think defense was the key,” coach Fran Dunphy said.
The Owls held the Blue Hens to just 25 percent shooting from the field in the first half. Delaware’s two leading scorers, junior guards Jawan Carter and Alphonso Dawson, who averaged 15 and 14.1 points per game last season, respectively, chipped in just 8 points combined in the first 20 minutes of action. Carter ended with 17 points and Dawson with 9, but by that point, it was too little, too late.
The Owls’ defense had something to do with that. Allen had double-digits in rebounds – 10 – at the half, including 6 on the defensive side of the ball. The Blue Hens’ entire team grabbed 13 total rebounds during those 20 minutes.
“I think [the defense] was solid,” Dunphy said. “I think when you have a guy like Lavoy in the back, he is seldom ever out of position, so I think that helps us greatly. I think it was solid overall. I think we had a good game plan overall. I think zone helped us in the second half, too. I think it slowed them down.”
“Defense wins games, so I always try to keep that, defensive rebounding, consistent,” Allen said. “Today, everybody did a good job scoring, so I didn’t have to do that too much.
“We’re still trying to figure out our identity on offense,” Allen added. “Our defense is prepared, and we came out playing hard on defense to help our scoring. But once we find our identity, we’ll be fine. It might take a little while, but hopefully, we’ll get there.
Though Temple may be sorting out the offense, the Owls did shoot 55.2 percent from the field in the first half. They finished at an even 50 percent clip. Brooks and sophomore point guard Juan Fernandez posted double digits in scoring. Brooks led both teams with 23 points and finished with 9 rebounds, one shy of a double-double. Allen finished one point shy of a double-double but corralled 15 rebounds and blocked two shots.
Helping Allen in the frontcourt were sophomore forward/center Micheal Eric, who contributed 7 points and 2 blocks, and freshman forward Rahlir Jefferson.
Though Jefferson fouled out, the freshman chipped in five points, two on a baseline dunk, and a steal in place of junior forward Craig Williams, who left the game with an undisclosed injury to his right knee.
“I’m hoping that it didn’t pop back out again, but I don’t know,” Dunphy said. “I haven’t talked to the doctor. Our trainer said he may have just tweaked it a little. He looked pretty good after the game. He was walking pretty strongly.”
The Owls did take notice of Jefferson’s play in Williams’ absence, especially if the forward misses time.
“Rahlir is a very intriguing player because he’s very long, and he’s very athletic,” Brooks said. “He can definitely play defense and help us on the defensive end. I think he did a good job also trying to make plays that may not show up in the box score, some loose balls, some deflections. He’s a player that’s definitely going to help us going forward.”
“It was exciting because I didn’t think I was going to play today,” Jefferson said. “I guess it comes from working hard in practice. Defense is something I try to pride myself on, and obviously, it’s paying off, so I’ll keep doing that.”
Temple takes on No. 20 Georgetown Tuesday at 4 p.m. The game will be shown on ESPN.
“It’ll be a little different look,” Dunphy said. “[Sophomore center Greg] Monroe is a terrific player, and their system is a little different than Delaware’s. We’re going to have to get busy right from the start here, watch a little bit of Delaware film and then get right into Georgetown.”
Game Notes: The Blue Hens lost their lone exhibition game to Division II Philadelphia University, 72-70…The Colonial Athletic Association Preseason Poll picked Delaware to finish 11th in the conference…The Owls improve to 36-6 all-time against the Blue Hens and have won the last 13 meetings in Newark, Del…The Blue Hens last beat the Owls at home on Dec. 11, 1951…Temple improves to 89-25 all-time in season-opening games.
Jennifer Reardon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.