BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Thirteen seconds elapsed when Jahlil Okafor hit his first jumper, a mid-range floater that put Duke on the board in a Coaches vs. Cancer Classic semifinal at the Barclays Center Friday night.
Okafor’s man, Temple junior forward Devontae Watson, promptly responded with a jump shot of his own on the Owls’ ensuing possession.
It was a start, but the difference in matchups, pace and talent had helped Duke pull away by the late stages of the Blue Devils’ eventual 74-54 win.
Senior guard Quinn Cook paced the Blue Devils’ balanced attack with 17 points, while Okafor, a freshman center, posted 16 points and hauled in eight rebounds.
“We’ll definitely take more bad than good from this game,” Owls senior guard Will Cummings said. “Defensively, we’ll look at the tape and get better on defense and help out for each other. I know we lost a lot of shooters tonight … we have to get better at that aspect.”
In the first half, Temple’s defense helped hold the Blue Devils (4-0) to 30.8 percent shooting. Okafor, who averaged 17.7 points per game in Duke’s first three contests, shot 3 of 13 and grabbed seven rebounds in the half.
Overall, Okafor hit 7 of 20 attempts from the field against the 6-foot-11 Watson.
“Obviously Devontae wasn’t on all game, but I think he did some really good things,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “He rebounded the ball well … In the first half I thought he was very active. He needed to get a few more offensive rebounds to get in better rebounding lanes to help us get an extra possession, but I thought Devontae did as good a job as he could have.”
Trailing 32-17 with 2 minutes, 37 seconds left in the first half, Temple (2-1) outscored the Blue Devils 9-4 in the remainder of the period to climb back within 10 points at the break, 36-26.
Duke, though, gradually pulled away in the second half, outscoring Temple 38-28 on 13-of-25 shooting en route to the 20-point victory.
“It definitely gives a good experience, playing on a big stage like this,” Cummings said. “It helps our team overall, giving us experience for the season. We just have to take what we learned from this game, get over the bad things and move on from it.”
After shooting a combined 4 of 26 in Temple’s first two contests, senior guard Will Cummings led the Owls with 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting, but accounted for eight of Temple’s 17 turnovers.
“The turnovers started with me,” Cummings said. “I had seven or eight turnovers for us. That’s all on me. I led the team in turnovers so I take full responsibility for the ones we had. We have to get better in that aspect for [Saturday].”
Sophomore guard Josh Brown followed with 11 points, shooting 4 for 10 from the floor. Overall, Temple shot 22 for 59 from the field and totaled just six assists.
“We’re not an assisting kind of group at this point,” Dunphy said. “What happens in a game like this, too, the only opportunities we really had were driving and taking them off the dribble. That’s not going to lend itself to a lot of assisting out there.”
Duke finished the night 25-of-64 from the field, and outrebounded Temple, 43-40. The Blue Devils held their turnovers to nine, while coming away with nine steals.
Temple’s opponent on Saturday night at 7, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, was dispatched 89-60 by Stanford University in the earlier semifinal battle.
Junior forward Jaylen Bond saw 19 minutes of action in his first game of the season, ending the game with one basket and four rebounds. Bond missed the first two games of the season to a sprained ankle, and initially left the game limping in the first half before returning. Dunphy said postgame that Bond re-aggravated the injured ankle, and that “hopefully” he’ll play Saturday against UNLV … After posting double-digit scoring totals for the first time in his career against Louisana Tech last Monday night, Brown eclipsed the double-digit mark again on Friday night … Temple’s participation in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic marks the university’s first appearance in the tournament since 2001. The Owls’ wins against American University and LA Tech this past week were also preliminary games for the 12-team tournament.
Andrew Parent can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Andrew_Parent23.