As new coach Fran Dunphy walked onto the Liacouras Center hardwood prior to the basketball team’s home opener,
the student section began chanting his name.
He received a few more cheers when he was announced to the crowd following the naming of the starting lineups.
Ultimately, the fans left the venue disappointed, as Dunphy failed to capture his first Temple win as Buffalo beat the Owls 64-62, Monday in the season’s home opener.
Dunphy, who became the first coach to patrol the sidelines of two Big 5 schools, said he is honored to coach Temple.
“I’m following a legend and I’m a privileged guy,” Dunphy said. “I want Temple to be as good as it can be. They deserve that – all the people here. Coach [John] Chaney deserves it.”
Dunphy had coached Penn for 17 seasons
before accepting the challenge to replace
Chaney, a Hall of Famer. Dunphy’s 310 wins at Penn are the most of any at the Ivy League school.
Dunphy has quite a few opportunities
coming up to earn his first win on North Broad Street. The game marked the beginning of an eight-day stretch in which the Owls will play four games, all of them at home.
Sophomore forward Dionte Christmas
paved the way for the Owls, totaling a team-high 23 points.
Dion Dacons led the team with seven rebounds as the teams deadlocked for control of the glass, each pulling down 38 boards.
Led by sophomore point guard Semaj Inge, the Owls bolted out of the gate. Inge scored seven points – including the Owls’ first five – as the team opened up a 16-9 lead six minutes into the game.
The first-year starter also led the defense, tallying two steals. Both led to breakaway baskets.
But the Owls’ shooting soon went cold.
Following senior guard Dustin Salisbery’s
dunk with 13:56 remaining in the half, the Owls (0-2) did not hit another field goal for nearly 10 minutes. Christmas broke the drought on a layup with just under five minutes left before halftime.
“They forced us to make a lot of bad plays,” Christmas said. ” … That was a big reason why we missed a lot of shots.”
By that time, though, the Bulls had constructed a 27-24 lead. Many of the Owls missed shots ended in the hands of forward
Yassin Idbihi, who totaled 10 first half rebounds, seven on defense.
But the Owls hung tough and regained
the lead as Christmas notched nine points in the half’s final five minutes. They headed to the locker room with a 32-31 lead.
The Owls and Bulls (5-2) played a game of give-and-take in the second half. The teams exchanged the lead 12 times throughout the game, which featured seven ties.
Salisbery fueled the Owls, scoring 11 of the teams’ first 13 points 10 minutes into the second frame of the second frame.
Junior forward DaShone Kirkendoll hit a couple of clutch three-pointers, including
one to put the Owls on top, 48-45, and another to tie the game at 51.
With a little more than seven minutes remaining, the Bulls embarked on an 11-0 run to open up a 62-53 lead with 3:51 remaining.
The Owls, however, still had some late drama in them.
Christmas finally stopped the bleeding
with about two minutes remaining, slam-dunking the ball following a steal.
Salisbery followed suit and Christmas notched a layup following a back-court violation to pull the Owls within 62-59.
With nine seconds left, Christmas stole the Bulls’ inbound pass and forced a jump ball, which went to the Owls.
Salisbery shot a three at the top of the key with a couple seconds left, but the ball bounced off the back of the rim and into the hands of a Buffalo player to seal the game.
Salisbery lay on the court following the shot, but Dacons picked him up – literally
“If the young guys see us [seniors] with our heads down, moping around, then their heads will do the same,” Dacons said. ” … We can’t have our senior, [our] top scorer laying on the floor after the game because he missed the last-second shot. I told him to get up.”
John Kopp can be reached at email@example.com.