WRITTEN BY TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
After opening the 2015-16 season in defeat against No. 1 ranked North Carolina last Friday night in Annapolis, the Temple Owls now embark on “destination basketball”, as they take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers this Thursday morning in the opening round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in San Juan.
The Owls (0-1), are one of eight teams that were invited to play in the tournament, and will be accompanied by Minnesota, No. 22 Butler, Missouri State, Texas Tech, Miami (FL), Mississippi State, and No. 16 Utah in a single-elimination tournament that begins on Thursday and concludes on Sunday.
Temple’s 91-67 loss to North Carolina saw Tar Heels’ forward Kennedy Meeks post 25 points and 11 rebounds, as the Owls were outmatched 49-32 in total rebounds.
“We weren’t as good as we needed to be rebounding the basketball, no question about it,” said Owls’ head coach Fran Dunphy. “Against that size and athleticism, we should have done a better job.”
The Owls’ leading scorer was Senior Devin Coleman, who tallied 19 points on 15 shots in his 21 minutes played. Senior captain Jaylen Bond led Temple in rebounds with eight, as the team was without the presence of Sophomore big man Obi Enenchionyia, who was sidelined due to an ankle injury.
“I think [Devin] has come ready to go, and I think he has these kinds of games,” said Dunphy. “I think he can get hot like he did, and he’s earned that right.”
While Coleman numbers popped out, Junior guard Josh Brown did not contribute much offensively, as the junior contributed only five points with six assists in 31 minutes on the floor. Shooting guard Quenton DeCosey finished with 11 points and three boards.
“[Brown] is our hardest worker, and you’re rooting like crazy for him,” Dunphy added. “But he did a decent job, and I’ll take that every night from him.”
Minnesota (2-0), who finished 11th in the Big Ten conference standings last season, has won their first two games of the year at home against Missouri-Kansas City and Louisiana Monroe. Senior forward Joey King led the Golden Gophers in points in both games (22, 20), and was the fifth leading scorer last season as a junior.
Both Temple and Minnesota have displayed impressive guard play from freshman, as Owls’ Levan Shawn Alston, Jr. collected 12 points in his first collegiate game, while Golden Gophers’ Kevin Dorsey has earned 18 points and 10 rebounds in his first two games.
It will be the sixth all-time meeting between schools, with the most recent game dating back to the 2003 National Invitational Tournament Quarterfinals, in which Minnesota defeated Temple in overtime, 63-58. The Owls have not defeated the Golden Gophers since Dec. 1971, and will look to snap the drought in the northeast Caribbean.
“We have to go into every game knowing that we’re playing good teams,” said Coleman. “As much time as you can spend with the team, it builds chemistry, which is obviously a positive thing.”
Enechionyia’s ankle injury keeps him listed as questionable for the tournament, according to a Temple spokesman. In order to win the bracket, the Owls must win three games, two of which may come against two nationally-ranked opponents in Butler and Utah.
“We’re appreciating our opportunity here in Puerto Rico against some terrific competition, and that’s what we’re here for,” said Dunphy. “We’re here to compete, but also to enjoy ourselves in terms of appreciating the environment.”
GAME 2: TEMPLE (0-1) vs MINNESOTA (2-0), NOVEMBER 19, 2015
ROBERTO CLEMENTE COLISEUM, SAN JUAN, PR
TV: 11:30AM ON ESPNU