WRITTEN BY TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
After playing three consecutive games in San Juan last week during the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, the Temple Owls returned home to Philadelphia on Sunday for their home opener, where they defeated Delaware, 69-50 for their second victory of the young season.
Owls’ forward Obi Enechionyia led all scorers with 16 points (6-8 FG, 4-6 3FG), including six total rebounds and four jumpers made from behind the three-point arc. Enechionyia’s point total was a season-high, as he also finished one point shy of his career-high of 17 in which he tallied off the bench last April against Miami (FL).
“I was just feeling good,” Enechionyia said. “I worked a lot in the offseason on my perimeter shooting, so I think today it translated into the game. I want to be a shooter.”
Despite a successful performance, Enechionyia and the Temple bench were given a brief scare in the closing minutes of the first half, as an accidental collision between the Owls’ sophomore and Blue Hens’ forward Chivarsky Corbett forced both big men to the floor. While Enechionyia left the court grasping his right ankle, Corbett was not as fortunate, and was helped off the floor by trainers and was later diagnosed with a torn ACL, according to Delaware head coach Monte Ross.
Although Corbett’s injury sidelines him for the remainder of the season, Enechionyia has dealt with a nagging right ankle injury since early November and missed the season opener against North Carolina in Annapolis as a result.
“I was worried, but I was able to get out there again and keep playing,” Enechionyia said. “I was almost at 100% before I twisted it again, but right now I’m really not too sure.”
Temple and Delaware opened the evening with hot starts on the offensive end, as the Owls led 21-15 midway through the first half. While the Blue Hens kept pace on offense, Temple took advantage of Delaware’s poor baseline defense and extended their lead to 37-25 at halftime.
While Delaware lacked depth from their bench, Owls’ freshmen guards Trey Lowe and Shaun Alston combined for 12 points in the first twenty minutes, as Temple outscored the Blue Hens 16-0 in bench points.
“[Lowe and Alston] surprised me with how fearless they are,” said Owls’ head coach Fran Dunphy. “They’re not afraid of anything.”
The second half opened with a brief momentum swing from Delaware, as the Blue Hens cut their 12-point deficit in half at the 16:46 mark to make the score 39-33. But Temple’s efforts did not let up and the Owls’ maintained a steady lead until the final buzzer. The 19-point margin of victory was the largest of the season, while Temple held on to the lead for over 36 of the 40 minutes.
Although the Owls outmatched Delaware with points off of turnovers (14-0) and total bench points (21-4), Delaware led the game in rebounds, 43-42, and collected 30 points inside the paint, compared to the Owls’ total of 24.
“I thought we were reluctant to throw it in the middle of the floor a few times,” Dunphy said. “We need to drive and kick it a little bit more and get ourselves to the rim. We got to do a better job on the defensive glass.”
Temple finished with nine made three-pointers on 29 attempts, and shot 40 percent from the field (26-65). Delaware’s overall shooting percentage was pedestrian, as the Blue Hens finished at 31 percent with only three made baskets from three-point range.
The Owls’ win improved their record to 2-3 on the season and was their seventh home opener victory in the last eight years.
Temple will continue their brief homestand on Wednesday evening at the Liacouras Center against Farleigh Dickinson, prior to heading out west to face the Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday afternoon.
“Let’s enjoy the moment,” said Dunphy. “We had a chance to play college basketball coming back home in a terrific facility, and we need to play our best basketball here.”