Anthony Bellino (@Bellino_Anthony)
For the first time in the Fran Dunphy era Temple will head into December undefeated. Saturday the Owls (4-0) put their undefeated record on the line against the Wagner Seahawks at 2 p.m. at the Liacouras Center. Wagner (2-3), will look to catch Temple in a trap game, as the Owls go to Villanova and play second-ranked Duke at the Izod Center next week.
Through three games Temple looked like a team that had no trouble scoring the ball, but its defense was sometimes lackluster and let teams hang around. The Owls were averaging 79 points but gave up 68 per game through three contests. Against Buffalo, though, it was a completely different style of basketball. Temple only scored 54 points but held the Bulls to just 39.
“I think every game takes on a different personality. I thought just the way the game developed (against Buffalo) we had three in-and-outs on threes in the first half alone,” Dunphy said. “It was a slow down kind of process. I don’t think we force tempo on anybody; I think we let the game come to us. Typically we can play fast or we can play slow; I just hope at the end of the day we have more points than them.”
Against Buffalo, Temple got good minutes from sophomore guard Will Cummings. Cummings, who played just 11 minutes against Delaware, played 37 against Buffalo. The 6-foot-2 guard from Jacksonville, Fla., scored nine points and had six rebounds, two assists and three steals in the contest. When senior guard Khalif Wyatt exited the game with an apparent injury with just under eight minutes left in the game, it was Cummings who picked up the late-game minutes and helped the Owls close out the victory.
“Will, I think, is showing signs of doing those kinds of things; he has to turn it over at a very low rate and he has to make plays,” Dunphy told CoBL. “I thought he had two very big baskets for us (against Buffalo) so I’m very pleased with his performance.”
Wagner has one thing in common with Buffalo: they only have one player averaging double figures in scoring. Senior Jonathan Williams is averaging 18.0 points per game for the Seahawks and has 14 more shots attempted than any player on Wagner’s roster, much like Javon McCrea for Buffalo. Williams is listed as a guard but stands 6-foot-6 and does much of his work inside the three-point arc. He’s gotten to the free-throw line 26 times this season and is shooting 85 percent there. Williams is also averaging a team-high 7.8 rebounds per game, four more than anyone on the roster. Temple will have to frustrate Williams early like they did to McCrea and force him to make bad decisions with the ball because he averages 3.2 turnovers per game. Wagner starts four players listed as guards, so expect to see 6-foot-6 senior Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson covering Williams to start the game.
“Last night after the game we watched some of the Buffalo film but now we’re concentrating all of our efforts on Wagner,” Dunphy said. “They had a good win against Princeton. They’ve got a really good basketball program.”
Temple will need another big performance from center Anthony Lee; Lee comes into the game averaging 12.0 points and 8.8 rebounds per contest. He will be matched up against 6-foot-11 Naofall Folahan; Folahan comes into the Temple game averaging 4.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game in just 18.2 minutes. Folahan is listed at just 215 pounds, so it will be interesting to see if the weight Lee put on in the offseason will help him get position on Folahan, who is two inches taller.
Temple’s bench has been well documented this season, and the Owls got a much-needed boost against Buffalo from freshman guard Quenton DeCosey. DeCosey scored eight points in 10 minutes of action off the bench against the Bulls. DeCosey brings a scorer’s mentality to the Owls’ lineup every time he touches the floor; he looks to find his shot and he was 4-of-7 from the floor against Buffalo.
“Quenton is a kid who’s got a lot of promise; there’s not questioning that, we need to get him minutes,” Dunphy said. “He did a really good job, he can really score the ball, but I was impressed with some of the things he did on defense too.”
As Dunphy said, the Owls let the tempo come to them and react to it. Will they come out and be the run-and-shoot team that scores around 80 but also gives up some easy buckets? Or will it be the team that slows down the game and scores in the fifties and focuses their efforts on the defensive side of the floor?