NEW YORK – Their starting backcourt shot a combined 5 for 20, yet Temple ended up winning going away. Thursday’s 76-60 win over South Carolina at Madison Square Garden, in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score, showed the Owls’ depth.
In the past and most likely in the future, the Owls need guard Shizz Alston Jr. and Josh Brown to be at their absolute best to compete, especially against a team from the Southeastern Conference. Granted, South Carolina (5-2) is a far cry from last year’s final four team, but this was still an impressive win.
The fact that Alston was 2 for 11 and Brown 3 for 9 and the Owls had other answers, suggests that Temple should be vastly improved from last year’s 16-16 record.
“This is a deep team,” said Quinton Rose, who had a game-high 24 points, shooting 10 for 13 from the field. “You can see it in practice, guys going at it the whole time.”
It must be noted that Brown had two steals and Alston three, so the guards helped in other ways, but many times in the past if Temple’s leaders didn’t play at their best, the Owls wouldn’t have much chance to be competitive.
It helped that sophomore center Damion Moore came off the bench for the first-ever double-double, 20 points and 10 rebounds, both career highs.
Another of Temple’s top scorers, 6-foot-10 Obi Enechionyia, had 15 points and only needed eight shots (making six). He also tied a career-high with six blocked shots and was a discouraging factor for South Carolina to go inside.
The Owls, so reliant on the three-point shot, hit just 4 of 17 from beyond and on this night, it didn’t matter.
“They took the three away from us so we had to attack,” Rose said.
And few are better at attacking than the 6-8 Rose.
He set the tone early, scoring 14 first-half points as Temple took a 38-27 at the intermission. The Owls would extend the lead to 23 with just under two minutes left.
Coach Fran Dunphy was able to empty the bench and the Owls rid themselves of the bad aftertaste of Sunday’s 87-83 loss at LaSalle, when they squandered an 11-point lead midway through the second half.
Under Dunphy, veterans will continue to log considerable playing time, and even in this game, three players logged 33 or more minutes, but he got 6-4 freshman Nate Pierre-Louis in his first action this season, beginning with five effective first-half minutes.
During the preseason and early portion of this year, Dunphy and the players had raved about the defensive intensity that Pierre-Louis brought and that was on display against the 5-2 Gamecocks.
In the first half, in which Temple led by 38-27, nine players saw action, which is one more than played in Sunday’s entire game against La Salle.
The Owls may not play nine in the first half of every game, but at least Dunphy knows when things aren’t working by script, that the Owls have other viable options.