Since the game ended around 9PM Friday night, I’ve had a lot of trouble determining if I should be optimistic or angry about Temple’s 23 point loss to the nation’s number 1 ranked team, the University of North Carolina. For starters, the team played with UNC for most of the game, keeping it within 10 points until late in the second half.
Redshirt senior Devin Coleman finally put it together with 19 points in 21 minutes, including a stretch where he couldn’t be stopped.
The young freshmen, Trey Lowe, Levan Shawn Alston Jr., and Ernest Aflakpui, all played big roles in the loss. Lowe, who we knew could score after 2,500 points in high school, showed off his quick stroke and good feel for the game. Although he seemed a little slow on defense and had trouble breaking through the UNC picks, the Ewing, NJ native was a bright offensive spot.
Alston also had a lot of positives and showed off his fearless will. After being pickpocketed on his first offensive possession of his college career, he came back the next possession and took UNC’s sophomore guard Joel Berry to the rack for a bucket. Finishing with 12 points, he showed his real offensive potential. Aflakpui saw the least time of the three freshmen, but had a nice layup and garnered solid time. Now listed at 6-foot-10 after being listed as 6-foot-8 during the offseason, the hope is that he can continue to grow and develop and build off of an average game.
But on top of those positives, there were more negatives.
After the Owls’ game, I stayed for the Navy versus Florida match. Like a typical military academy, in the first ten minutes, there must have been four charges drawn and at least four or five times when a Navy player dove after a loose ball. It got me thinking. I couldn’t remember a time when Temple had fallen on the floor for a loose ball during their game. I soon noticed that I couldn’t remember a moment where they looked like they really wanted the game. Never in my life did I think I would write these words.
I’m not saying they didn’t play hard. They just didn’t bring that extra Temple fire that we are used to seeing. That is the Temple way. That is supposed to be their identity.
In addition to effort, Temple basketball has been all about defense, especially under coach Dunphy. But this was not evident during the North Carolina game. They looked like they didn’t want it. UNC big men Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson, and Joel James were able to get into any position they wanted without much fight. The Carolina offensive players set screen after screen and the Temple players struggled to fight through. The heart, will, and desire just was not always there. This upsets me because I have waited for UNC versus Temple my entire life. Growing up under the wing of a UNC grad, I anxiously awaited the day they would face off. I always honestly thought that Temple would win, because they would outwork the Tar Heels. It was a common problem for North Carolina, as they would lose to teams that wanted it more. Yet it seemed that on Friday, Temple wasn’t the team who wanted it more.
The bottom line is that this Temple basketball team has a lot of talent. Quenton DeCosey averaged double digits last season. Jaylen Bond is well rounded and is supposed to be their defensive anchor. Josh Brown handles the offense in a calm and composed manner. Devin Coleman showed he could be a potential offensive spark. And they have a freshmen class that holds an immense amount of potential.
This Temple squad has the chance to be good, but if they don’t stick to their roots of hard, gritty, and tough play, it may be a year of disappointment.
With that being said, this is not a game to forget for the Owls. They need to remember the good, the bad, and the humility that came along with this lackadaisical loss.
Photo courtesy of PhillyVoice.com
-Temple finishes season with 80-69 loss against East Carolina in first round of AAC tournament