Photo courtesy: @TUMBBHoops
In the world of sports, the difference of game speed and practice speed is on the Mount Rushmore of preseason talking points. Coaches wonder whether young teams can play up to it and how long it will take them to adjust.
For Temple on Wednesday night, the answer was about 25 minutes as it struggled to find its footing against University of Maryland-Eastern Shore. This came despite the fact that the Hawks were playing the second game of a back to back and were massive underdogs.
In the end, however, the Owls found their way to a 72-49 victory over the visiting Hawks after a surge midway through the second half. With the obvious disclaimer that it is early, here’s a couple of takeaways from the first game.
Zach Hicks’ Arrival: The freshman’s career started with a ball bouncing off of him and into the crowd. A highly anticipated recruit out of Camden Catholic, the nerves seemed to be there early in the game. With fifteen minutes left in the second half and the Owls only leading by one, Hicks knocked down a three on the wing in front of the Temple bench for his first collegiate points. The shot kicked off a 20-7 run for the Owls that put the game out of hand for good.
“I don’t know why they were leaving him open,” Temple guard Khalif Battle said. “He’s going to give us that spark off the bench. He’s a special talent.”
Hicks finished with nine points on three-of-six shooting from beyond the arc to go along with five rebounds and three assists. Head coach Aaron McKie flatly told reporters after the game to expect that out of Hicks, that’s what the program envisions him as.
Despite two steals, Hicks is still a work in progress on that end and McKie is quick to acknowledge that. However, Hicks said he has put on 20 pounds since he got to Temple and it is helping him stay in front of guys on that end.
All in all, he’ll continue to have a niche in this lineup if he takes advantage of good looks on offense and attacks the glass on the other side of the floor.
Rotation: The starting lineup of Battle, Damian Dunn, Jeremiah Williams, Sage Tolbert and Jake Forrester gave a look at the expected backcourt, the unknown at the four position and Temple’s most seasoned veteran.
Off the bench, guards Jahlil White and Tai Strickland as well as forward Nick Jourdain were the first called upon Wednesday night. Hicks saw 15 minutes of action as the team went with a nine man rotation.
The starting backcourt ended up putting together the numbers that you are going to come to expect from this group. Battle and Dunn complimented each other’s scoring runs. Dunn kept the team afloat early as the team went through a slow start and Battle turned it on in the second half.
As for Williams, he played his typical role of facilitating and playing solid defense. He did struggle at the free throw line and didn’t see as much time in the second half.
Tolbert and Jourdain were interchangeable and both put together solid nights defensively and on the boards. Offensively, they left a little bit to be desired despite a solid start from Tolbert dishing the ball in sets early in the first half. Tolbert had a pair of good looks but couldn’t finish around the rim and Jourdain accounted for three turnovers.
“I like the two-headed monster that we have with those guys,” McKie said. “They give us versatility, they can spell each other …. and we can get the same amount of production out of that position.”
Forrester was the odd man out of the frontcourt due to the looks that UMES was giving Temple, McKie explained after the game. The Hawks’ full court pressure and bothersome zone pushed the Owls to go with guys who had better ball handling. It could be a recurring occurrence against teams that don’t match the Owls’ height and want to run them up and down the court.
Strickland looked like the player that the program expected. His confidence and ability to generate separation looked much better than a season ago. In a crowded backcourt, he definitely stood out as someone who will be entrenched in his role.
Obviously, Hicks impressed in his debut. As for White, showed his length on the defensive end and did a solid job on the boards. Offensively, there wasn’t much to be gathered about his role.
Slow Start: The greatest indication of the Owls’ early struggles was a 13-2 run by the Hawks to end the second half. There were some bad turnovers, stagnant offensive stretches and allowing inexcusable offensive rebounds, but it all seemed to be part of first game struggles.
“I thought it was just first home game jitters,” McKie said. “It’s a new group of guys and it’s just a different environment to perform. I would chalk it up to having an out of body experience, I know for a fact that we are much better than how we played in the first half. We were a step slow, our defense carried us until we started to make some shots.”
All in all, the Owls were able to iron out some struggles and put together a solid 15 minutes to end the game.