Without a true experienced backcourt to start the 2016-17 basketball season, many expected Fran Dunphy's Temple Owls to struggle with playmaking, decision making and overall execution on both offense and defense. Temple's senior point guard, Josh Brown, is still sidelined as he recovers from a torn achilles tendon while Trey Lowe, the Owls standout freshman from last season, decided to redshirt due to injuries sustained in a car accident late last February.
As a result of the major injuries, Quinton Rose, Alani Moore II, and Shizz Alston have all been thrust into the main rotation for the Owls. Although the three young guards have shown their inexperience with questionable shots and blown defensive assignments every once in awhile, the talented trio put their capabilities on full display during the NIT Season Tip-Off in Brooklyn over Thanksgiving.
Alston, Rose, and Moore played significant minutes as Temple took on two ranked teams during the tournament. Thanks to the play of the young guards, the Owls were able to knockoff both of those teams and were crowned the 2016 NIT Season Tip-Off Champions.
In the semifinal of the NIT Season Tip-Off, Temple was able to overcome an 18-point deficit in the second half against the 25th-ranked Florida State Seminoles. With 13:30 left to play in the game, Quinton Rose turned over the ball on a bad inbounds pass which led to an easy layup for the Seminoles to put them up 60-42. Subsequently, Fran Dunphy burned a timeout.
But from that point on, Rose and Alston were determined to get their team back in the game.
“We just looked at each other. Me and [Rose] brought everybody together and said ‘Let's go. It’s time to pick it up. We're on the big stage, we’re not going out like this,’” Alston said after the game. “Down 18 points, we're going to fight back and win this game.”
Fight back is exactly what the Owls did and the tone was set by both Rose and Alston.
Rose hit a calm jumper right out of the timeout to make it a 16-point game, and after getting a stop on defense, Rose drained a 3-point bucket off an assist from Alston to go on a 5-0 run on his own and cut the FSU lead to 13 points in just 42 seconds. From that point on, the Seminoles just could not contain Rose or Alston.
Rose was able to take FSU's guards off the dribble and draw several fouls to stop the clock and take points off the board while Alston kept on nailing step back three after step back three. The two young guards went on to score the next 16 points for Temple, which included five straight made free throws from the freshman Rose and three straight 3-pointers from the sophomore Alston.
Alston only scored four points at halftime, but by the end of the game, he racked up a total of 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the floor, 4-of-8 from three and a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line. Alston had huge stops on defense as well and was able to come away with 3 steals while also finding his teammates throughout the game, ending with 4 assists. Undoubtedly, this was the best showing of Alston’s short career at Temple so far after struggling to contribute consistently his freshman season.
“Everybody knows it's been a tough start for me, especially shooting the ball,” Alston said. “So when I saw those threes go in, I just wanted to cry. I haven't made that many threes in a while...It felt normal again.”
Rose filled up the stat sheet in the comeback win over Florida State as well, scoring a game and career high 26 points. Rose also added 4 assists and 6 rebounds to his line, showcasing how he can affect the game in more ways than one.
“They were being aggressive defensively, so we knew we had to match the aggressiveness on offense,” Rose said. “We had to play aggressive, attack baskets and make shots and that's what we did.”
Aggressive might be an understatement to describe Rose’s play during the game. Rose was able to get to the line 15 times and made 12 of those free throw shots. That aggressive play was one of the main reasons why Temple was able to come back from FSU’s double digit lead, and in the championship game the following day against #19 West Virginia, that same aggressiveness was matched. This time however, it was the smallest player on the court that showed his toughness and ability to get to the free throw line when needed.
Although West Virginia’s full court pressure has been known to force teams into submission by cutting off passing lanes, getting up in ball carriers’ faces, and forcing several turnovers, Temple was unphased by Bob Huggins’ signature defense for most of the game. A major reason why Temple was able to exploit ‘Press Virginia’ was thanks to 5-foot-10 freshman, Alani Moore II.
The young point guard may be small, but his athleticism and speed caused major problems for WVU's pressure. Each time Moore received the ball in the backcourt, he was able to out run double teams and find holes in the Mountaineer's high risk, high reward defense. When the Mountaineers failed to keep up with Moore off the dribble, they fouled the freshman, but he made them pay.
Moore was able to hit entirety of his eight free throws, all of them coming in the second half, keeping Temple in the game after WVU had come back from being down 20 points.
“I stayed with my normal routine,” Moore said after the game about his clutch free throw shooting. “I stayed focused and locked in and just made the shots.”
Not only did Moore’s aggressive attacks off the dribble get himself easy points at the free throw line, but that ability to dribble away from double teams created easy looks for his teammates as well. If it was not for Moore’s speed and ball handling, Obi Enechionyia’s 22 points would have been much harder to come by and Temple may not have beaten the 19th-ranked Mountaineers 81-77.
“I thought (Moore) really stepped up today. The presence and toughness he had hasn't necessarily shown itself before today,” Fran Dunphy said of the freshman point guard. “I thought he really stepped up towards the end of the first half, and then again making all those foul shots...I think he really arrived today.”
It was only a two game stretch, but the clutch performances from the underclassmen backcourt against two ranked teams gave people a taste of what can be a dangerously underrated Temple Owl team.
Yes, the season is early, and yes, they have shown already shown their growing pains in losses to New Hampshire and Massachusetts. But when this team gets it going, they are hard to stop. With older guys on the team like Daniel Dingle and Obi Enechionyia already off to solid starts, the blossoming of Quinton Rose, Alani Moore II, and Shizz Alston over the Thanksgiving tournament has created even more offensive options. If the young guards are able to sustain their efficient, aggressive, and intense play, do not be surprised to see the Owls dominate come time for conference play and a run at the NCAA Tournament.
Photo: Austin Ampeloquio/The Empire
Shizz Alston Jr. is currently the sixth most efficient passer in the entire NCAA. He has an assist to turnover ratio of 10.5 and through four games, has turned the ball over only twice. In 141 total minutes played, Alston has racked up 24 assists to that pair of turnovers, and the confidence of the sophomore guard continues to grow as each game passes by. None of the other five players ahead of Alston in the assist-to-turnover ratio standings nationally have played as many minutes as he has, and this tremendous efficiency from the underclassman is a telling sign of just how much positive progress he has gone through in such a short amount of time.
“His assist-to-turns are really good,” Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said of Alston after Temple’s 88-67 win over Manhattan on Sunday. “Everybody is comfortable playing with Shizz and now he’s really starting to understand what his role is.”
More and more, it is becoming clearer that the “role” Dunphy mentions references Alston’s increased job in the backcourt, as many of the Owls’ pieces are missing due to injury, including fellow sophomore guard, Trey Lowe and senior captain, Josh Brown.
In fact, Alston is playing very similarly to how Josh Brown played last season when Brown was thrusted into the primary rotation after the point guard position was left vacant following the graduation of Will Cummings. By the end of last season, Brown was eighth in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio and was the main reason why Temple, as a team, ended their 2015-16 campaign ranked third in the nation in fewest turnovers per game.
Alston is doing more than just finding his team open looks though.
During Temple’s blowout win against Manhattan, Alston was able to score a career high 17 points on an efficient 7-of-11 shooting from the floor. His scoring came, in large part, thanks to his court awareness, constantly finding open holes in the Jasper’s zone defense. For several possessions, Alston would cut to dead spots around the high-post and free throw line area to nail open mid-range shots. Alston was also able to fill in every single stat in the boxscore except for turnovers.
The second year guard was able to grab three defensive rebounds, record two steals, and reject a shot at the rim for a block. When the season started, Alston made known that this kind of all around play was how he wanted to contribute to the team.
“I told myself, when I’m not scoring, I have to do other things to help my team,” Alston said after the Owls first game of the season earlier in November. “I feel like that gives us some energy. My blocks, and my steals...give us some life.”
Before the season began, Fran Dunphy noted that he had different expectations for Shizz Alston Jr. this year, but did not really specify what those expectations were. With his recent efficient play, the Owls and coach Dunphy should now be looking forward to how Alston can continue to run the offense with a continued confidence and efficiency, while also playing reliable defense against opposing guards.
“He played very well. He’s got a better sense of who he is right now,” Dunphy said. “It was not an easy freshman year for him. I think he picked up a lot tonight...he came of age, and as we move forward, he’s going to be expected to do even more for us.”
Photo: Charles Fox/Philly.com
Daniel Dingle’s highest minutes per game average for a season at Temple came during his 2015-16 campaign for the Owls, when he averaged 20.7 minutes per game. In Temple’s first game of the 2017-16 season, Dingle played a game and career high 43 minutes. Talk about drastic increase.
This is the most he has ever played in a single game under Fran Dunphy and probably the longest he has ever played in a regulated contest. Granted, the game did go into overtime, but even at the end of regulation, the fifth year senior captain had already logged 38 minutes on the hardwood. The major distribution of minutes for Dingle payed off in the end, as Temple was able to hold off Big 5 rival La Salle in a 97-92 win at the Liacouras Center. After watching what Dingle could do on the court offensively and defensively for an extended period of time, there is no doubt that his role has drastically changed for the Owls this season compared to prior years.
Last season, Dingle’s role on the team was different each game. Therefore, it was hard to actually assess how well he could run an offense or guard a man straight up for an entire game, but he did show glimpses of his ability to step up and take over games. The game that stands out in particular in the minds of many Temple fans and for Dingle himself was last season’s come-from-behind victory against the University of Connecticut on February 2nd. With Temple trailing by double digits and five minutes left to play, Dingle was able to hit three clutch three pointers to keep the Owls in the contest.
“I feel like UConn was my best game. Just [because of] the energy in the building and the confidence in my teammates for me to make threes and step up,” Dingle said after being asked if the 21point performance against La Salle was his best game at Temple. “Last year, my role varied each game, so I didn’t know what my role would be, but UConn is probably the game that I remember the most.”
Though that UConn game was full of energy, emotion, drama and late game heroics, Dingle’s play in this year’s season opener truly showcased his all around potential. Not only did Dingle have a career high in points and minutes, but he also dished out five assists and grabbed four rebounds as well. The redshirt senior shot 7-for-11 overall, 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and drained 4-of-5 shots from the free throw line. Dingle did all that, while checking La Salle’s premier scorer, Jordan Price, for the entirety of the game. By the end, Dingle added three steals to his stat sheet stuffing performance.
“Coach [Dunphy] trusts me. This is my fifth year. I know the ins-and-outs of the program, so definitely my confidence is higher,” Dingle said of his new leadership role after the La Salle victory. “Getting the opportunity...I think it’s my turn to help the young guys.”
Helping the ‘young guys’ is exactly what Dingle did according to sophomore guard Shizz Alston Jr., who had a game and career high six assists. As a sophomore, Alston said that, “playing with Obi and Dan made it easy tonight..hitting shots...they made it real easy to be a point guard.”
Temple head coach, Fran Dunphy, was thoroughly pleased with Dingle’s output during the game, commending his all around effort on both sides of the basketball, as well as in the huddle.
“I thought Dan was terrific tonight, in a lot of different ways,” Dunphy said. “He carried us for a large part of the game...Dan’s a good leader, a great guy and I’m very happy for him.”
It is still very early in the season, but if Dingle is able to consistently put up points, find ways to get his teammates easy baskets, and defend the opposing team's best player, he may be one of the best two way players Temple has ever seen.
Photo: David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports
Benjamin Simon & William Derry
Temple finished the 2015-16 regular season on a high note, as they were crowned champions of the American Athletic Conference (AAC) with a 20-10 record.The Owls went on to play in the semifinals of their conference tournament, where they fell short of a title, but still earned a bid to March Madness after missing out on the tournament for the past two seasons.
In a nailbiter, Iowa defeated Temple 72-70 with a buzzer-beater putback in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, robbing Fran Dunphy and company of the opportunity to face off against the eventual NCAA champions: the Villanova Wildcats.
Dunphy now enters his 11th season at the helm of the Temple men’s basketball program. In 2015-16, the all-time winningest coach in Philadelphia Big 5 history earned the American Athletic Conference Coach of the Year honor for the second consecutive year. And now Dunphy’s coaching skills will be put to the test once again. As a result of four seniors graduating last spring, Temple will rely heavily on young, inexperienced players to come in and compete for minutes.
Furthermore, the Owls may be without senior guard Josh Brown for most of the season due to his ongoing recovery from an achilles tendon surgery. Brown’s absence will catapult freshman guard Alani Moore into the line of fire, as he will likely begin the campaign in the starting five.
Jaylen Bond (F, graduation), Devin Coleman (G, graduation), Quenton DeCosey (G, graduation), Devontae Watson (F/C, graduation), Trey Lowe (G, Injury)
Temple graduated four seniors last season in Quenton DeCosey, Devin Coleman, Devontae Watson, and Jaylen Bond.
DeCosey, who started in all 33 games last season, led the Owls in scoring with 15.9 points per game and ranked second in rebounding (6.0), assists (85) and three-pointers (49), which resulted in a first team All-AAC selection. DeCosey was the team’s go-to scorer and they will have trouble replicating his ability to put points on the board.
Bond was Temple’s lone team captain and a second team All-Philadelphia Big 5 honoree. He led the team in rebounding (8.5), grabbing 541 boards in his two years on North Broad. He was also the anchor of the defense, disrupting opposing big men with his long arms and wingspan. Coleman was a lethal outside shooter off the bench, converting a team-high 64 three-pointers. He was a streaky shooter who could get hot at any moment (hence the 23 point, 7-7 from three point range performance against SMU).
Watson was a reliable big off the bench, who along with DeCosey, Bond, and Coleman, will be missed. At 6-foot-11, Watson occupied a lot of space and was used in situations when the team needed a bigger body to play defense.
Finally, Lowe will redshirt the season after getting in a car accident last March. He will stay with the team and rehab in preparation for next season. Lowe showcased his ability to score in freshman season in bursts. Although he only averaged 4.8 points per game, he had 3 double digit scoring outings, including a 21-point outing against Villanova.
Ayan Nunez de Carvalho (G, R-Fr.), Steve Leonard (R-Jr., Transfer), Isaiah Lewis (G, Jr., Transfer), Alani Moore (G, Fr.), Damion Moore (C, Fr.), Quinton Rose (G, Fr.)
The Owls bring in a three person freshmen recruiting class, while adding two transfers (Lewis and Leonard), and a redshirt (Carvalho). From the get-go, the most impactful player in year one will be Alani Moore. Despite being the shortest player on the team at 5-foot-10, Moore is a floor general who is ready to produce right away. He is quick, clever, and mentally mature.
The other two freshmen, Damion Moore and Quinton Rose, will have a tougher time getting consistent minutes. Both are raw, but physically imposing players for their position. Moore is 6-foot-10 and 225 pounds, but extremely young and inexperienced. As a 6-foot-8 guard, Rose has a higher ceiling, but is an equally large project. However, Rose may find more minutes than Moore purely based on his size and mismatch ability for his position.
Lewis and Carvalho will add depth to the team early in the season, but may have trouble finding consistent minutes when Brown returns. Carvalho may be an interesting x-factor for the team after sitting out last season as he got accustomed to his first year living in America. The Argentinean is big for his position at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds. On top of his size, he has played a fair amount of basketball, competing for the U17 Argentina National Team in the 2014 U17 FIBA World Championships, where he averaged 10 points per game. Lewis, on the other hand, comes to Temple after playing JUCO ball at Casper College.
Projected Starting Lineup
G: Alani Moore (7 PPG, 3 APG, 1.5 SPG)
The clever guard from Washington D.C. is the exact opposite of former Temple guards. Freshman Alani Moore can blow by people off the dribble with his elite quickness, a trait Temple fans haven’t seen very often. After years of Juan Fernandez, Khalif Wyatt, and Josh Brown, Moore’s speed will add a nice change of pace. He is labeled as a floor general and should be able to man the team with the help of Alston until Brown comes back.
While Moore should see major minutes early on, he will lose minutes at the 1 when Brown returns. Brown will undoubtedly start when his injury heals, but in the meantime, the team will have extended tryouts to see who will start until Brown comes back. Although Moore could very well find his way on the bench when Brown returns, Dunphy might opt to sit one of the big men in favor of a smaller, more talented lineup, featuring both Moore and Brown sharing the ball.
G: Levan “Shizz” Alston Jr. (13 PPG, 2 APG, 2 RPG)
Altson had a strong season in his first year at Temple. He showed his ability to be a hybrid guard, playing both on and off the ball. His versatility will play a valuable role while Brown is injured. Despite only averaging 2 points and .6 assists per game, Alston made a bigger impact than his stats will suggest. On top of a big first game, where Alston scored 12 points against the then number 1 ranked team, North Carolina, Alston played double digit minutes in twelve straight games to open up the year. But as the season went on, Alston fell out of favor, tallying only three double digit minute games for the remainder of the season. However, if the Owls want to have any success, Alston will need to play well. As the team needs another scoring option, Alston will have many opportunities to prove himself as a legit college basketball player.
F: Daniel Dingle (7 PPG, 4 RPG, .42 FG%)
The rising senior has always had the potential, but has never seemed to live up to it. Despite playing 21 minutes per game, Dingle only averaged 4.4 points per game and shot an abysmal 32% from the field and 24% from three. The good news is, Dingle is back and has trimmed 10 pounds. After looking slow last season, he should bring some versatility to the big man position, using his ability to take slower defenders off the dribble and smaller ones into the post. If Dingle can replicate and build off of the production he had in 2013-14 before he got injured, the team could have a lot of success. It’s no secret that Dingle’s production translates into wins. During the 2015-16 season, in games that he scored more than 5 points, the team went 7-1. He will need to be quick and once again find that respectability from the deep range to improve.
F: Obi Enechionyia (14 PPG, 7 RPG, .41 3P%)
With Josh Brown injured, Obi Enechionyia will enter the season as Temple’s go-to scorer. The junior forward is a versatile big man who is as talented as anyone in the AAC. Last season, Enechionyia had 18 double digit scoring games, including two times where he erupted for 20 points. The power forward is a knock down three point shooter with a beautiful stroke, as he shot 39% from three throughout 2015-16. However, the bigger question marks involve other aspects of his game, rebounding and defense.
With Jaylen Bond gone, Enechionyia will surely need to improve his rebounding and defense. Last season, Enechionyia had a reliable force next to him who he could always count on to do those aspects of the game, while he just scored. But this season is different. The other forward spot next to him will be a question mark. Enechionyia needs to use his athleticism and take over the game in every aspect. No longer does he have a scapegoat to hide his flaws. If he can fill those holes, Enechionyia will surely be one of the best players in the American.
F: Ernest Aflakpui (4 PPG, 7 RPG, .59 FG%)
The big man from Archbishop Carroll struggled to find minutes last season after injuring his knee in his senior year of high school. While he appeared in 18 games, he scored in only 8. But that’s not what Ernest Aflakpui is supposed to do. His job is to rebound, play defense, and hustle. Although he went through growing pains during his first season, Aflakpui gives Dunphy the proper size in the middle of the defense and will provide a complementary role to Enechionyia’s scoring and offensive ability. All he needs to do is play efficiently and Aflakpui will see his minutes increase.
Ayan Nunez de Carvalho (G, R-Fr.), Steve Leonard (R-Jr.), Isaiah Lewis (G, Jr.), Damion Moore (C, Fr.), Mike Robbins (G, Sr.), Quinton Rose (G, Fr.), Mark Williams (F, Sr.)
The Owls will have one of their shallowest benches in recent years. It will be headlined by senior Mark Williams. The forward from Cleveland can stretch the floor with the three ball and play inside if needed. While he is not a go-to scorer or a lockdown defender, he is a solid role player who has now played in the system for four seasons. After Williams, there is not a guy on the bench who has played substantial Division 1 minutes.
While Leonard played at the Division 3 level for Ursinus and Lewis played JUCO ball at Casper College, the bench looks rather inexperienced. With that said, coach Dunphy has some intriguing options. He has two gigantic freshmen, Rose and Moore, who are raw, but talented. Carvalho returns to Temple after redshirting last season and has a lot of playing experience competing with his Argentinian National Team. He has spent a year in the Temple system and is familiar with the team and playing style. Lewis, who struggled to find minutes at Casper College, playing only 15 minutes per game, may not be the savior, but could provide depth at the point guard position with some college basketball experience.
vs. La Salle (Nov. 11th, 2016)
The Owls face a revamped Explorers team on opening night. Temple defeated La Salle last season by 13 points at the Philadelphia Big 5 doubleheader which took place at the Palestra. This Big 5 contest pits an improved La Salle roster against a Temple program that lost four seniors due to graduation. The game on November 11th will be an early test for coach Dunphy’s inexperienced team and will give everyone a sense of the Owls’ potential as a team.
at Villanova (Dec. 13th, 2016)
Temple takes on the defending National Champions in Villanova. Though the Owls lost to the Wildcats last year by 16 points, sophomore guard Trey Lowe had a breakout performance, scoring a career and team-high 21 points. Lowe will not be here this year, as he is redshirting, but the Owls will need another performance like that from someone else. Temple will enter the Pavilion as a longshot to win but the experience and exposure these young Owls will gain is invaluable.
at Connecticut (Jan. 11th, 2017)
After defeating UConn twice during the regular season but losing to them in the American semifinals, Temple will seek revenge when they travel to Hartford, CT in early January. Though the Huskies will be heavily favored coming into this matchup, expect the Owls to compete and hustle for 40 minutes in a major indicator about the outcome of the American.
Despite having one of their most inexperienced teams in recent seasons, in 2016-17, Temple should have some success thanks to their schedule. As of now, Temple only has two teams on their entire schedule that are in the preseason top-25. While they face off against Florida State at the beginning of the season, they also play multiple lighter games, including at home against New Hampshire, Manhattan, and NJIT. In addition, there is a good chance that they will not have Josh Brown back until conference play begins. Therefore, it will be hard to see them pulling off upsets against La Salle, Florida State, or Villanova without their key guy. As a young and inexperienced team that returns only one starter from last year to open the season, it is hard to predict how the team will perform. But with an easier non-conference schedule and Obi Enechionyia returning after a strong finish to the 2015-16 season, the Owls should find themselves with another 15+ win season.
“I’m definitely going to play this year. It’s just a matter of time, when and where. -Josh Brown in an article by CSNPhilly.com
“We don’t have that bona fide scorer. There’s going to be nights when I have to pick up the scoring load, Obi has to pick up the scoring load, Dan, Josh and [Alston] and so forth. But I think that’s a positive for our team because any night, it could be the next guy.”- Mark Williams in an article by The Temple News
“We’re going to have to get this year’s Devin Coleman for us, who bought in, probably was a starter, but bought in to coming off the bench to give us a little bit of a spark. That guy, this year’s Devin Coleman, he’s probably not going to start a lot of games, but he’s going to finish just about everyone.” -Head coach Fran Dunphy in an article by The Temple News
“I think we can go down low a little more. I think it’s been a trend where we tend to shoot a lot of jump shots and play around the key, but guys like Ernest, he does a great job ducking in guys, so I think we’re going to go down there a little more this year. -Daniel Dingle in an article by The Temple News
“If we can get him to have a move or two down there, he doesn’t have to be [Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame center Hakeem] Olajuwon. I just want him to be Aflakpui. But I want him to be able to pass the ball out, repost again and really be a threat down there for us. But he has to finish plays and that’s what he’s working on right now. He’s been shooting the foul shot pretty good, which is what I’m encouraged by.” -Head coach Fran Dunphy in an article by The Temple News
Photo: Jenny Kerrigan/TempleNews