Up 14 points with eight minutes to go, it looked like Temple was going to coast to an easy season opening victory over the Penn Quakers.
Not so fast, my friend. It just wouldn’t be a Big Five game without a furious comeback and some drama in the closing minutes of the game. Still, the Owls escaped with a 78-73 victory that left bookies and bettors cursing.
Several big developments to look at coming out of this game:
- Dalton Pepper finally looked like the player we thought he would become when he was tearing up the competition for Pennsbury in high school. The senior guard/forward finished with 19 points and nine rebounds in 31 minutes of burn. Pepper also had three assists and no turnovers. Best of all, he looked confident. Of all the things that Temple needs for it to have a successful season, a breakout campaign by Pepper is probably the most important.
- Freshman forward Mark Williams, a late pickup by Fran Dunphy for the 2013-14 season, started for the Owls and played 32 minutes. He scored five points, including an impressive dunk in the first half and pulled down nine rebounds. He only connected on one of his seven shots and missed all three of his three-point attempts but he generally looked pretty comfortable on the court.
- Sophomore Quenton DeCosey has been tabbed as the player who makes the big freshman to sophomore year jump like Khalif Wyatt and Dionte Christmas did before him. He played a team-high 33 minutes and scored 12 points…but he shot 4-of-19 overall from the field and 1-of-10 from beyond the arc. The Owls will be able to get away with performances like that in these early season contests but shooting like that won’t cut it in The American.
- Sophomores Daniel Dingle and Devontae Watson and freshman guard Josh Brown all saw significant time this evening. I’m following the development of Watson very closely as I believe he can make a serious impact coming off the bench or even spot starting at center and moving Anthony Lee over to the 4. He scored four points and grabbed five rebounds in 13 minutes while Dingle had a modest six and four to go along with two blocks. Brown played 20 minutes behind Will Cummings and put up a quiet two points. Even though it’s out of necessity, it’s very encouraging to see Dunphy playing the youngsters.
- Lee did was Lee does- 12 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in just 23 minutes. If it wasn’t for foul trouble, Lee would’ve had a monster game for the Owls. It goes without saying but he’s the impact player on this team so it’s imperative that he stays on the court as much as possible.
- Cummings had a good game that was marred by six turnovers. Dunphy is going to be leaning on his junior point guard to be much more of a contributor than he has been in years past. If he cleans up the turnovers and continues to put up numbers comparable to what he did tonight — 18 points, four rebounds, four assists — the Owls could be able to do some things.
- Temple dominated the battle of the boards 49 to 35. The Owls almost had as many offensive rebounds (20) as Penn had defensive (24).
All in all, this was a pretty satisfying victory. A lot of Temple faithful (myself included) were thinking that this was shaping up to be an upset win by the Quakers. As much as we gripe about his inability to land the big fish, Dunphy has proven time and time that he can coach the hell out of a team. Let’s see what he can do with this ragtag group.
Next up for the Owls is Kent State on Monday night at the Liacouras Center. The Golden Flashes are coming off of an 84-48 victory over something called Ohio Northern.