Tyler Sablich (@TySablich)
After scoring just five points in Temple’s 14-point win over Rice last Satuday, the Owls’ bench provided a lot more life today in their 80-75 win over Delaware.
Fifth-year seniors Jake O’Brien and T.J. DiLeo, along with junior Dalton Pepper, combined for 22 points off the pine.
O’Brien, a transfer from Boston University, was the biggest spark off of Fran Dunphy’s bench throughout the afternoon. O’Brien, who scored just three points in 14 minutes against Rice, went 3-for-5 from the field and 2-for-3 from three-point range in 11 minutes of first half action. He had eight points at the break, after scoring just nine points between the team’s first two games.
O’Brien kept up the pace in the second half, finishing with 13 points on 4-for-7 shooting and 3-for-5 from beyond the arc.
“For us to be effective we need a lot of guys to contribute,” he said. “It was just one of those days where [Pepper, DiLeo] and myself got into rhythm and were able to help out today.”
DiLeo, the team’s back-up point guard, led the bench with 29 minutes. Starting point guard Will Cummings was forced to take a seat early in the first half after committing two quick fouls, playing just seven minutes in the first half.
A defensive-minded point guard, DiLeo continued to play the majority of the minutes over Cummings in the second half, finishing with three points, three assists and four steals.
“I think (DiLeo) at this point is a little more reliable,” Dunphy. said. “I think they are a good two-headed monster for us at this point. I think (Cummings) is starting to get better and starting to understand what his role is.”
Dunphy, a fan of DiLeo both on and off the court, speaks highly of his point guard’s personality and devotion to the team.
“(DiLeo) is a superstar human being and he is all about the team,” Dunphy said. “If the roles were reversed and (Cummings) played 29 minutes and 9DiLeo) played 11, you wouldn’t hear a word about it. That’s the type of kid he is.”
Pepper came awake in the second half for Dunphy. Pepper went 2-for-5 from 3-point range, tallying six points before being lifted after forcing a couple shot attempts. Pepper, in his first year of eligibility for Temple, has struggled to find his rhythm thus far in the early going of the season, but showed signs of breaking out against Delaware in his 15 minutes of playing time after a scoreless night against Rice.
After transferring from West Virginia following his sophomore year, Pepper was deemed ineligible to play last season.
“To go from a player and telling them it is OK to transfer but you cannot play next year, it is a hard, hard thing,” Dunphy said. “You don’t feel a part of things. So [Pepper] is working himself through that and I thought he gave us some really good minutes today.”
The bench’s 22-point input is their highest of the season, narrowly edging out their 21-point effort against Kent State. O’Brien and DiLeo, who also provide senior leadership coming off the bench, will be heavily relied upon in case Anthony Lee and Will Cummings succumb to foul trouble, as was the case against Delaware.