Temple men’s basketball senior adjusts to reverse struggles

Shizz Alston Jr., Temple’s leading scorer, is adjusting his play when double-teamed.

Senior guard Shizz Alston Jr. drives to the net during the Owls' 72-68 loss to Cincinnati on Jan. 27 at the Liacouras Center. | JUSTIN OAKES / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Shizz Alston Jr. knows he won’t be on his game every single night.

The senior guard and Owls’ leading scorer hit a rough patch, which began when he missed 13 shots during his 14-point performance against Penn on Jan. 19. 

In a four-game stretch following the Owls’ 77-70 loss to Penn, Alston shot 26.9 percent from the field, down from 39.6 percent in the previous 17 games. In the fourth game, he matched his season-low six points in the Owls’ road loss to nationally ranked Houston on Jan. 31.

Penn denied Alston opportunities to shoot from mid-range by double-teaming him off pick-and-rolls. This was the best way to guard, based off his film, Penn junior forward A.J. Brodeur said after the Quakers’ victory over Temple. 

Other teams have copied Penn’s defensive formula ever since, causing Alston’s offensive struggles. Opposing defenses made it difficult for Alston to consistently score. He also struggled to hit open shots.

“[Alston] excels at shooting those long mid-range jumpers, and we wanted to take that away from him while also still trying to make it tougher for when he inevitably does get those shots,” Brodeur said on Jan. 19. 

Alston combats getting double-teamed by getting to the foul line and finding open teammates like junior guard Quinton Rose and sophomore guard Nate Pierre-Louis. In the three games following Jan. 31, Alston has 15 assists and is 20-for-21 from the free-throw line.

“When teams are doubling me, it’s easier for [Pierre-Louis and Rose] to score because they have one-on-one matchups,” Alston said on Wednesday after Temple’s 81-63 win against UConn. 

Coach Fran Dunphy wanted Alston to attempt more free throws to get him out of his slump, Dunphy said.

The adjustment has helped Alston average 20 points in Temple’s past three games. He made 40.5 percent of his shots during that span. The Owls went 2-1 in those three games, compared to 1-3 in Alston’s four-game slump.

“[Alston] made a few adjustments on his own,” Dunphy said. “He’s a pretty smart guy. He knows what’s going on out there. He got himself to the foul line much better in a couple of instances in Tulane. I thought he did a great job of getting there [against UConn].”

The Owls’ forwards and centers’ ability to hit shots after Alston fights off screens softens opposing defenses, Alston said. 

UConn attempted to double-team Alston early in Wednesday’s game, but sophomore forward Justyn Hamilton’s career-high, 13-point performance forced the Huskies to adjust their defense, Alston said. UConn’s adjustment allowed Alston to lead the team with 18 points. 

Alston has assisted a teammate on a layup or dunk seven times in the past three games.

“Basketball has it ups-and-downs you just gotta take the good with the bad,” Alston said. “You’re gonna have some bad shooting days. When those games come, you gotta know that some good games are coming soon.” 

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