PUERTO RICO – This past weekend, the Temple Owls competed at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in San Juan, but it was nothing close to a vacation. The team played against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, #22 Butler Bulldogs, and the #16 Utah Utes.
In Temple’s first game of the three day tournament, it was a quarterfinal contest against Minnesota in which they won, 75-70. Both teams played competitively throughout with the lead changing several times, but ultimately it was Temple’s three-point shooting and ability to share the ball that led to the victory for the cherry-and-white. The Owls shot an impressive 43.5-percent from behind the arc and totaled 18 assists at the end of regulation. Minnesota was outplayed in both of those departments, shooting a pedestrian 33.3-percent from deep and only dishing out eight assists for the game.
Due to the high assists margin, all but two Temple players scored. It was an all-around team effort as five Owls contributed double-figures in points. Senior captain, Jaylen Bond, scored a team high 19 points on 8/12 shooting while grabbing seven rebounds in 32 minutes. Devin Coleman was able to drop 15 points, nine of which came from three, while shooting a perfect four-of-four from the free throw line. Quenton DeCosey added 12 points and made four of his six field goal attempts while also making both of his free throws. DeCosey also dished out three assists, which tied the team high with Levan Alston Jr. who also had three assists for the game. Off the bench, sophomore, Obi Enechionyia, made three three-pointers and ended the game with 14 points and four rebounds.
The victory advanced the Owls to the semifinals which would pit them against an efficient and high scoring Butler team that was ranked 22nd in the nation. The Owls led early in the game, and by a comfortable margin that blossomed to as high as 12, the largest lead of the game for either team. Despite the double-digit lead, Temple was unable to contain Butler’s offense for the entirety of the game and lost the contest 74-69.
Though the final stats show a very even game throughout, Butler proved that they simply just wanted the ball more. The only statistic that shows a decent separation between the two teams is in rebounding, where Temple was outrebounded by a margin of six. Butler grabbed a total of 47 rebounds while Temple grabbed 41, but every other team statistic had no larger margin of separation than three and the Owls had more field goals, three pointers, free throws and blocks than Butler, making it hard to believe that the cherry-and-white lost.
Four of the five starters for Temple racked up double-digits in scoring, once again showing another balanced scoring attack by the Owls. Quenton DeCosey led all scorers with 24 points on 9/16 shooting while making all four of his free throws and crashing the boards 10 times as well. Fellow senior Jaylen Bond also had a double-double, scoring 13 points and corralling 13 rebounds. Though Josh Brown and Devin Coleman were able to add 12 points and 10 points respectively, it was not enough to come away with the victory.
Nevertheless, the Owls still had a chance to play for third place in the consolation match against a Utah Utes team that was ranked 16th in the country, making them the second straight ranked opponent and third in four games for the Owls.
In this third place contest, Temple trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half, but in the closing minutes were able to tie the game and even take the lead on multiple occasions. There were four lead changes in the final 3:06 of play but the Owls were unable to pull the upset, losing 74-68.
Quenton DeCosey and Obi Enechionyia were the only players in this game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off that scored double-digits for the Owls. DeCosey led with 14 points and Enechionyia trailed not far behind with 13 points.
Temple was unable to halt the dominance of NBA prospect and Utah star, Jakob Poeltl. The Owls allowed the All-American to score 32 points on 83-percent shooting while also letting the big man grab a game high 11 rebounds.
The heartbreaking loss was topped off with two consecutively missed free throws by Daniel Dingle that could have tied the game at 70 in the last 16 seconds of regulation. Prior to those two misses, the Owls missed just one of their seven free throws.
Ultimately, the Owls’ effort did not seem suffice throughout the tournament. Rarely, if ever, did you see an Owl player diving on the floor for a loose ball or making those effort plays. While watching all three games, the Owls often let opposing offenses dominate them rather than the usual gritty Owl defense. Not that every defensive possession was bad, but as a team, the effort level is not collectively there yet. However, the Owls showed multiple signs of brilliance on defense and offense that display hope for the coming games in the season.
One thing that supremely stood out was Temple’s full court press. Though the half-court defense was not as stout as it should have been, the full court pressure that Temple ran in the closing minutes of each game forced crucial turnovers. The full court attack was what ultimately pulled the Owls closer to the Utes in the third place game and if head coach Fran Dunphy runs it more often, expect the Owls to rack up more wins as the season progresses.
Although the full court press impressed throughout the tournament, it bit the Owls in the back end in the closing moments of each of their two losses in Puerto Rico. Dunphy’s squad elected not to foul with the shot clock off in both the Butler and Utah game when the Owls found themselves down by manageable deficits. If they were to stop the clock, it would have given the Owls more time to respond with more chances for offensive possessions. Instead of fouling, they attempted to run a full court trap that led to seconds ticking away. On both occasions in each of the games, the failed trap led to a layup on the other end for the opposition. So not only did the traps extend the lead, but the intent of not to foul milked precious seconds away that the Owls could have used to their advantage.
All in all, the reason coach Dunphy and the team decided not to foul was most likely because of the extremely efficient success they had when running the full court pressure earlier in each of the games. Ultimately, the success more than likely bated Temple into thinking they could force another turnover in the closing seconds rather than giving up points at the charity stripe. This proves that decision making is another aspect that the Owls must improve on if they want to win more this season.
The two losses and one win in the early season tournament put the Owls at 1-3 through the first four games of the season. Though the record does not look promising at this point, the three losses came against ranked teams (#1 UNC, #16 Utah, #22 Butler) while the win was against a Minnesota team that was riding a solid two game winning streak. It is still way too early in the season to be talking about March, but if one thing is certain, it is that the Temple Owls certainly do not have a weak schedule and they have shown they can play with some of the best in the country.
Photo: Ricardo Arduengo- AP Press