Sophomore forward Rahlir Jefferson and the men’s basketball team managed to withstand a late Seton Hall surge as the Owls defeated the Pirates, 62-56, in their season opener.
After trailing, 20-17, with eight minutes and 17 seconds remaining in the opening half, the Owls went on a 17-0 run to distance themselves from the Big East Conference foe. The Cherry and White would enter halftime with a 34-24 lead.
Temple maintained its momentum early on in the second half as the Owls led, 60-55, with 2:35 remaining in the game. Shortly after, Seton Hall’s offense would finally ignite and go on a 10-0 run to bring the score to 60-56. Thankfully for the Owls, junior guard Juan Fernandez hit two free throws with a second remaining to seal the win. The dropoff in production late in the game was due to a combination of how young the season is and Seton Hall’s defense, Fernandez said.
“We slipped a little bit at the end,” Fernandez said. “It’s tough to play your first game of the season against a team that plays that kind of defense. We didn’t know if they were going zone or man-to-man. They kept switching. Our offense isn’t 100 percent yet. It’s only the first game of the season and it’s tough to start against a team like that.”
“The important thing is that we found a way to win and we’re 1-0,” Fernandez added. “That’s what matters.”
The Owls shot 42.6 percent from the field while the Pirates managed to sink just 29.7 percent of their shots. Thanks in part to Temple struggling against the press, the Pirates forced 18 turnovers, including 12 in the opening half.
The Owls trailed by five points in the first half before Temple coach Fran Dunphy subbed in Jefferson along with sophomore guards T.J. DiLeo and Khalif Wyatt. Jefferson would go on to score 10 points while also grabbing 10 rebounds in 24 minutes.. The double-double was the first of his career. The trio would go on to play 45 minutes in the game. The productivity of the bench provided a momentum change, junior guard Ramone Moore said.
“We kind of got down [five points] and then Rahlir, Khalif and T.J. came in,” Moore said. “The bench gave us a big spark. Rahlir played a big game. He was grabbing offensive rebounds, driving [to the lane] and making some key layups. He was very important for us.”
“He made a couple of great follow throughs,” Dunphy added. “He did a good job. He’s a good basketball player and a great guy. You don’t even have to sit him down and talk to him aobut coming off the bench, he just understands that will be his role. I’m very proud of him.”
Senior forward Lavoy Allen battled foul trouble early and finished the game with nine points and nine rebounds in 29 minutes. Junior center Micheal Eric scored eight points while swatting a career-high five blocks. Junior forward Scootie Randall started the first game of his career and scored four points while grabbing nine rebounds in 32 minutes. Moore led all Temple players with 14 points on six-of-13 shooting.
Seton Hall senior guard Jeremy Hazell led all scorers with 17 points. No other Pirate finished the game with double-digit scoring. Seton Hall coach Kevin Williard, coaching his first game for the Pirates after spending the past three seasons as the coach of Iona College, used 10 players in the loss. Every participant for Seton Hall played at least 10 minutes. The Pirates shot 13-of-16 from the free-throw line.
The Owls will return to the Liacouras Center on Sunday when they face Toledo. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m.
Game Notes: Wyatt posted career-highs in minutes played with six, points with five and rebounds with three. The game was part of a doubleheader with the women’s team, which lost, 84-75 to No. 7 Ohio State. The announced attendance of 8,368 was the most at a Temple home game since last season’s loss to Kansas on Jan. 2. 10,206 fans saw the Jayhawks beat the Owls, 84-52 in that game.
Kyle Gauss can be reached at email@example.com