Not much has changed for Temple during the past month. Right now the Owls appear to be mired in mediocrity. While the Owls are in a better position opposed to last year’s 3-11 start, progress has been painfully slow.
“We start picking up when the Atlantic 10 schedule comes and we start to jell,” sophomore forward Antywane Robinson said. “The defense is so complex to learn that it takes until halfway through the season for the young guys and everyone to come together.”
That wasn’t the case last Saturday when Temple dropped a 66-65 decision to a sub par Massachusetts squad.
Senior guard David Hawkins is still doing all the scoring, while his teammates are still trying to find their shooting touch. Sophomore Mardy Collins has started to get his stroke back over the last few weeks, but is back at point guard after the loss of freshman Mario Taybron to academic ineligibility.
Few teams have been able to stop Hawkins, who has scored at least 20 points in 10 straight games. He is seventh in the nation in scoring, averaging 23.3 points per game, and with extra attention on Hawkins, the onus is on the rest of the team to help pick up the slack.
“What happens is David has been one of the most consistent players on the team,” coach John Chaney said. “And it is rather frustrating when he’s scoring and they [opposing teams] show a box-and-one or they double him and they [other Owls] don’t knock their shots down.”
Meanwhile, the expectations of center Keith Butler becoming a brute force in the post has faded with each game. While the sophomore has suffered a mild concussion and is recovering from a bout with bronchitis, he has failed to show improvement. In turn, Chaney hasn’t cut Butler’s minutes due to foul trouble, but rather his tepid play.
“We always try to set up a pattern and get it into the big guys and try to get him off,” Chaney said. “He sets up to far out, he starts dribbling to get to the basket. It takes him three years to get there because he’s trying to get his feet together. It’s a motor skill and a mental skill. We’re going to keep going to him.”
Junior forward Nehemiah Ingram has performed well off the bench. He’s averaged just 18 minutes a game, yet he leads the squad with 39 offensive rebounds and defensively has done well at the top of the key in Chaney’s 1-3-1 rover scheme.
The Owls have managed a couple of nice wins on the road against Indiana and Penn. But losses to Massachusetts, Richmond and Miami are confounding. If Temple is going to begin another improbable run it would need to start now.
They still have games with Xavier, Georgetown, at Rhode Island (again), and Saint Joseph’s twice. St. Joseph’s will saunter into the Liacouras Center with a perfect mark of 17-0 and a No. 3 ranking this Saturday in a game that has been sold out since Jan. 21.
Ingram admitted the undefeated Hawks are on their minds. The Owls have struggled in the first half of games and Ingram said a strong start will be key.
“Hopefully against Saint Joe’s we’ll start out with that spark and have it all game,” he said.
Led by National Player of the Year candidate guard Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, the Hawks have been pounding on the competition. Their margin of victory is 17.8 points a game, and they lead the A-10 in both field goal and three-point shooting as well as field goal shooting defense.
Jason S. Haslam can be reached at email@example.com