Near the end of the first half, Temple forward Steve Settle III poked the ball free from a Navy player and dove toward the sideline, trying to steal a possession for his squad. The six-foot, 10 inch forward just missed the save, but his teammates did not care, as the entire bench emptied to pick up their fallen starter.
This type of energy is a clear example of head coach Adam Fisher’s impact on the Temple program. After last season, where players were benched for their lack of energy or appeared to play for themselves, this Temple squad has played unselfish basketball through its first two games, and that chemistry has paid off.
“We’re going to print that picture out and hang it in our office,” Fisher said.
Temple Men’s Basketball (2-0, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) beat Navy (0-2, 0-0 Patriot League) 75-68 Friday night in the second game of the Veterans Classic in Annapolis, Maryland.
The Owls started the season 2-0 for the first time since 2019 with the win.
Defensive effort was the key difference tonight for Temple, as the Owls were all over the floor, impacting the Midshipmen offense. Navy had 14 turnovers, much higher than Temple’s eight, and couldn’t find a foothold in the game. This was especially important as the Owls struggled shooting, making just 41 percent of their shots.
For Fisher, strong defense was all part of the game plan, which his team executed, he said.
“That’s what it’s about,” Fisher said. “It’s about 14 guys. We always say, ‘T over me.’ If we have 14 guys believing in what they’re doing, this team could be special.”
In the moments it mattered most, Temple’s defense stepped up and put the game out of reach. Navy went on a 7-0 run to cut its deficit to seven points, forcing Fisher to call a timeout with just more than 10 minutes left in the second half. Then, the Owls ran a quick inbound play, but center Sam Hofman was called for an offensive foul, leading to a turnover and a media timeout.
The Owls went scoreless for nearly five minutes, missing seven straight field goals, but their defense prevented Navy from taking the lead. When Settle knocked down a three, Temple had all it needed to stay in the driver’s seat. Settle finished with nine points on 2-6 shooting.
Temple could not hit free throws in the final minutes to put the game on ice, and Navy took advantage. Settle lost the ball on a rebound, and Donovan Draper’s layup cut Temple’s lead to as little as three points with just above 30 seconds to play. However, guard Hysier Miller hit two free throws, and the Owls got two stops and a pair of free throws from guard Matteo Picarelli to secure the seven-point win.
“It’s a game of runs,” Fisher said. “We knew they would be juiced up. Our guys handled it well. It showed we stick together. We are proud of how they responded to adversity.”
Hofman, who transferred this offseason, played a major role in setting the tone on both ends. He made his presence known in the frontcourt, picking up three offensive rebounds and energizing his teammates with physical buckets. He finished with five points in 24 minutes.
Fisher’s two key leaders, Miller and forward Jahlil White, led the way once again for the Owls. Miller was the game’s leading scorer, earning 18 points on 6-15 shooting, going 3-9 from three. He added three assists as well.
White had his second straight double-double, putting up 18 points and 10 rebounds against the Midshipmen.
“He’s relentless,” Fisher said. “He’s making great reads, he’s picking the right spots. He shot 8-12. He’s doing the right things.”
Hofman and Picarelli both had big games, as Picarelli ended as the third-highest scorer with 17 points. They stepped up when guards Zion Stanford and Jordan Riley could not. Stanford struggled, shooting 1-6 from the floor and didn’t play much toward the end of the game. Riley, in his first game this year, could not adjust to the lineup and appeared lost at times, often receiving directions from White and Miller in between plays.
Even though the two players struggled, Riley and Stanford played significant minutes, and Riley’s defense helped close out the win.
“He’s a freshman,” said Fisher about Stanford’s performance. “Everything’s a learning curve, and we just want to teach. There are some defensive things we talk about. He maybe settled a little. But he’s a freshman, that’s hard.”
The Owls get a few days off before playing their first game in the Big 5 Classic tournament. They will take on Drexel (0-1, 0-0 Coastal Athletic Association) on the road Nov. 13 at 7 p.m.