The men’s basketball team scored fewer than 50 points for the second straight time against a Big East Conference opponent this season.
And for the second straight time, the Owls lost.
In Saturday’s Philly Hoop Group Classic finale at the Palestra, Saint John’s defeated the Owls, 55-48.
Temple (4-2) fell to then-No. 20 Georgetown, 46-45, in the second game of the season.
Like that earlier game at the Verizon Center, the Owls struggled to score. Though the defense held St. John’s (5-0) to 32.7 percent shooting from the field in the game, the Owls themselves shot just 28.1 percent from the field and 3-of-14 from 3-point range. Connecting on 9-of-15 free throws did not help the cause either, though the Red Storm attempted double that amount.
“We were at the rim a number of times but couldn’t finish,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “I wasn’t overly impressed with our toughness tonight, and I think that’s what it comes down to sometimes. That was the biggest disappointment tonight.”
“They’ve been calling fouls and the whistles have been going off all weekend,” senior guard Ryan Brooks added. “That’s how they decided they were going to call all these games this weekend. We’ve just got to adjust, and I don’t think we did a great job adjusting, necessarily.”
“The refs, they had stretches where they called every foul and stretches where they let everything go,” Fernandez added. “It’s hard to know what’s coming. It was not because of the refs that we lost the game. We’ve got to learn from this.”
Temple’s three leading scorers, Brooks, junior forward Lavoy Allen and sophomore point guard Juan Fernandez combined to go 9-for-35 and only attempted three free throws. Allen finished with nine points and four rebounds after going to the bench at the 9 minute, 4 second mark in the first half with two fouls. He did not even score his first points of the game until almost two minutes into the second half. In Allen’s absence, Brooks finished with eight points and five rebounds on 3-of-14 shooting. He too did not contribute a bucket until he hit a 3-pointer with slightly less than four minutes remaining in the first half. Fernandez shot 2-of-10, but more importantly, he committed four turnovers to go with his four assists. In the first half, the Owls as a team had a 3-to-10 assists-to-turnover ratio, and they did not take advantage of the Red Storm’s 4-to-17 overall mark in that category.
“I had three turnovers in the first half,” Fernandez said. “I wasn’t ready for the challenge in the first half. I tried to change it up in the second half. I don’t think I helped my team in the first half.”
But, the Owls led 22-21 at halftime despite those statistics. The Red Storm came out of the locker room on a 13-2 run that increased the lead to 34-24. Still, Temple had a chance. With about eight minutes remaining in the game and the Owls trailing, 41-34, St. John’s junior guard Dwight Hardy (who fueled the run with eight of those points), intentionally fouled sophomore guard Ramone Moore. Moore stepped to the line and missed both free throws. The Owls did not score on that possession.
“We actually talked about that during our timeouts and just now in the locker room,” Brooks said. “That particular play [and that possession] was huge. We didn’t talk about not converting on that possession but on those two free throws. They were big. We know that. We were still in the ballgame. Our offense hurt us tonight.”
The Owls now travel to Western Michigan Tuesday and then play three games against last year’s National Invitational Tournament champion Penn State, Miami (Ohio), which almost upset then-No. 4 Kentucky earlier this season, and No. 4 Villanova.
Game Notes: Dunphy said sophomore forward/center Micheal Eric has a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee and that the trainer said he should give it a week to 10 days off. “Micheal wanted to play, but I didn’t feel like I should push the issue,” Dunphy said…With the win, St. John’s improves to 15-14 all-time at the Palestra, as this game broke the tie…The Red Storm once again made their move in the second half. In their 77-68 defeat of Siena Friday, St. John’s scored 46 points on 63 percent shooting.
Jennifer Reardon can be reached at email@example.com.