Dionte Christmas said he knew the Owls were ready to do something special the moment he stepped onto the Liacouras Center hardwood Wednesday.
The Owls topped the century mark for the first time since Feb. 4, 1988 en route to a 109-70 victory and the fourth-highest score in program history.
“I knew that from the beginning tip-off,” Christmas said. “The last couple of games we’ve been hot, playing well. And I knew coming into the game [that] we were going to play well.”
Coach Fran Dunphy was wouldn’t go quite as far as Christmas, but said he wasn’t surprised once he saw the boxscore.
“As I look at the stats, the things that jumps out at you right away is four offensive rebounds for St. Bonny,” Dunphy said. “That has obviously been an Achilles heal for us during the course of the year.”
Mark Tyndale led Temple’s attack on the glass, grabbing a career-high 16 rebounds as the Owls outrebounded the Bonnies, 49-21. The junior guard also collected 16 points to notch his third straight double-double.
Senior forward Dion Dacons also finished with a double-double, posting 10 boards and a career-high 16 points.
When asked what the difference has been during the Owls’ three-game winning streak, Dacons responded with one name.
“Mark Tyndale,” the co-captain said. “I think Mark sets the tone not only for me, but a lot of the guys – offensively and defensively.”
The Owls (10-12 overall, 4-5 Atlantic Ten Conference) other two offensive weapons, guards Dionte Christmas and Dustin Salisbery, also played a large role in shooting out the lights.
Christmas, still battling a hand injury, finished with 31 points. He reached the 30-point plateau for the fourth time this season.
Salisbery chipped in with 21 points, with 19 of those coming in the second half. He left the first half with a sore neck and played just 12 minutes in the second frame. After the game, Salisbery had his neck wrapped in a foam brace, but strictly for precaution.
Glad his captain was OK, Dunphy offered a few wisecracks during the postgame press conference.
“He should hurt his neck every day,” Dunphy quipped. “We’ll all get turtlenecks.”
Dunphy then asked whether Salisbery was one of the players who had addressed the media. Salisbery hadn’t.
“I’m sure he’s nursing his neck,” Dunphy joked.
Laughing aside, the Owls nursed a large lead throughout most of the game. All but one player on the roster – walk-on Orlando Miller – scored. Luis Guzman established career-bests in points (4), rebounds (4) and assists (4) in just five minutes of action.
The Owls opened the game on a 10-0 run, but saw it get as close to three, at 16-13, with 12:51 remaining in the opening period. The Owls then went on a 13-3 run over the next four minutes to take a 29-16 advantage.
“We turned it up on the defensive end in the first half,” Tyndale said. “I think that got us off to a good start.”
But the Bonnies were persistent, and battled back within five, at 39-34, with 2:37 left in the first stanza. The Owls escaped to the locker room with a 47-38 lead at break.
Then the blowout began.
The Owls shot 64.7 percent in the second half, including 53.8 percent from behind the arc.
They opened on a 9-0 run to take a 56-40 lead. By the period’s mid-point, the Owls already had 88 points.
After Guzman missed a foul shot that would have put the Owls at 100 with 3:48 left, the freshman guard hit a jumper on the Owls’ next possession to put them over the century mark.
But, a win is a win, and the Owls know they have a tough opponent rolling into town Sunday.
At 6-2 in the A-10, Massachusetts (16-6) sits a half-game behind Rhode Island for the league lead.
Rebounding will again be a challenge against the Minutemen, who feature big men Rashaun Freeman and Stephane Lasme.
Freeman averages 17.0 points per game and is third in the A-10 in rebounding with an average of 8.6 boards per contest. His .632 field goal percentage tops the league.
Lasme leads the A-10 with 9.7 rebounds and 4.95 blocks per game.
By scoring 109 points, the Owls carry a lot of momentum into the game.
“I think it sets the tone for Sunday’s game,” Dacons said. “Every game from here on out is the most important game. It’s a tone-setter. It gives us a lot of confidence going into Sunday’s game.”
John Kopp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.