Coming off two heartbreaking losses in close contests against ranked opponents, the Temple Owls came into the Liacouras Center for their home opener on Sunday night with one thing on their mind: winning. Though Jaylen Bond and Obi Enechionyia began the contest against the Delaware Blue Hens scoring the first six points for Temple, it was an entire team effort by the Owls as they came away with a convincing win in front of a proud Temple crowd.
By the end of the first half, all but three Temple players scored. Jaylen Bond along with freshmen, Levan Alston Jr. and Trey Lowe, were tied in team high scoring with six points each heading into halftime while Temple’s bench outscored Delaware’s bench 16-0 through the first 20 minutes of play. It wasn’t until the 12:18 mark in the second half when Enechionyia hit a three-pointer for his 10th point of the game that a Temple player was in double figures, yet the Owls led by as many as 12 without a double-digit scorer.
Obi wasn’t the only Owl to break 10. By the end of regulation, Temple came away with a 69-50 win over the Blue Hens and three of their five starters, including Enechionyia, scored in double figures. Eleven different Owls played in the home opener and eight of them scored. In the first half, Temple had 5 team assists but when the final buzzer sounded, the Owls upped their total to 13 dimes, four more than Delaware’s 9 total assists. Moreover, the Owls bench continued to dominate the Blue Hens bench in the second half, and at the end of the game, Temple’s bench outscored Delaware’s bench 21-4, a 17 point differential.
The emphasis on team play didn’t stop on the court either, Jaylen Bond and Obi Enechionyia spoke a lot about the entirety of the team during the postgame press conference as well. After the team effort by the Owls in the home opener, Bond, the lone captain for the Owls, expressed confidence and belief in his squad. “I think we can compete with anybody in the country, but we also can lose to anybody in the country,” Bond said. “We have to play hard every night to be successful.”
When asked about the performance of the active freshmen, Enechionyia stated, “They’re pretty impressive. To be honest I wasn’t really expecting them to come in and be as efficient on offense as they are.” Enechionyia, who was a freshman last year, added that he knows and understands how difficult the transition from the high-school level to the collegiate level is. “As a freshman that’s pretty tough. Coming in from high school, it’s a big jump, so for them to be playing as well as they are, it’s impressive.”
Lowe and Alston Jr. finished the game with a combined 14 points off the bench. Lowe totaled eight points while Alston had six, proving that they are not afraid to score despite the lack of experience in the college game.
“They’ve surprised me with how fearless they are,” head coach Fran Dunphy said about Lowe and Alston. “They’re not afraid of anything.”
Daniel Dingle rounded out the rest of the bench scoring with seven points, making three of his five field goals.
Though it is still early in the season, this theme of team camaraderie seems to be a big part of what the Owls are trying to instill in their game plan this season. “We’re focusing more on moving the ball this year,” Enechionyia said. “Last year we let [Will Cummings] drive and kick and this year, I think the ball moves a lot more. It’s showing a lot.”
Though filling the void of a star point guard like last year’s Will Cummings is not an easy one, Dunphy added that with the departure of such a ball dominant player, he has seen an improvement on sharing the ball. “I do think we move the ball…better than we did in years past. I’m hoping that that’s because we’re emphasizing it but I’m hoping that these guys are buying into that aspect as well.”
The Owls have not dropped their assist totals in the first five games of the season any lower than 10 and recorded a season high 18 assists against Minnesota in their only win during the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Currently they are averaging 13.4 assists through five games, a one assist improvement over last year’s 12.4, but as the season progresses and more games are played, expect the average to increase even more when the team chemistry begins to solidify.
Photo: Austin Ampeloquio-The Empire