By: Ray Dunne
In the fourth and final game of their season-opening homestand, Temple came out of the gates scorching hot en route to a 81-67 victory over Loyola-Maryland.
The Owls jumped out to a 23-6 lead just under nine minutes into the game, fueled by a balanced offensive attack. Junior guard Quinton Rose guided the team through that stretch with six points and two assists.
Loyola-Maryland attempted to climb back multiple times, clawing their way within six but never closer as Temple held the lead wire-to-wire. After slow starts in each of its first two games and a sloppy second half against Georgia, the team was able to put together two solid halves for the first time.
“I think that we were pretty confident that we were in control,” Quinton Rose said. “We were going to come out with the win, we just got to clean up some things.”
One has to look deep to find flaws in Rose’s game. The 6’8″ guard finished with 16 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and a career-high 6 assists.
Through four games, Rose is averaging 18.3 points per contest in spite of shooting just 18.8% from beyond the arc. Assuming that Rose is able to start knocking down long range shots like he did a year ago (34.5% from distance), his offensive game only has room to grow.
“I think he’s got to do a better job of getting threes, space himself a little bit better, but we want him making shots on the perimeter because I think it will set up his moves to the basket,” Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said of Rose. “I think he can make shots, he’s just got to get better shots.”
As for the rest of the team, Shizz Alston Jr. continued to show his ability to light up a scoreboard, dropping in a team high 18 points on an impressive 4-for-7 shooting from the three-point line. Fellow guard Nate Pierre-Louis also had a solid night on both ends of the floor, scoring 16 points to go along with his two steals.
The trio of guards in the starting rotation (Rose, Alston, Pierre-Louis) have accounted for just over two-thirds of the team’s entire offense this season. While it may speak volumes to their success thus far, it also shows some of the inconsistency that has plagued the front court this season.
Fouls have been an issue for Ernest Aflakpui, and the first half of Friday night’s game was proved no different, racking up two in the early going, which forced him to the bench. However, the second half was a resurgent one for the big on the offensive end of the floor.
After not scoring a point in the game on Tuesday against Georgia, Aflakpui became a scoring force in the second half. The big had 8 points on 4-for-4 shooting en route to 10 points and a perfect field goal percentage.
Even so, the game left a little bit to be desired on the defensive end, especially against a smaller team. The 6’11” center struggled with the responsibility of Loyola-Maryland forward Brent Holcombe, who had a team-high 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting.
“Ern did not have great defensive game tonight, he’s got to carry the load defensively for us,” Dunphy said. “He does some really great things defensively and obviously made some baskets tonight. Made the first basket tonight and I thought they fed him well in the second half.”
Regardless of any one player’s difficulties in the early going, Temple has taken advantage of playing four-straight home games against programs that are not expected to be top tier teams as the season progresses. Friday’s win has the Owls at 4-0 for the first time since 2012-2013, a season in which the team advanced to the Round of 32 in the NCAA tournament.
While tournament talk remains a conversation for another day, Temple is about to embark on a trip up to Brooklyn, where they will face Virginia Commonwealth University and either Saint John’s University or University of California.
The trip figures to be a true test of where the team stands at this point in the season.
“I think we play pretty well in Brooklyn,” Shizz Alston said. “My sophomore year we beat Florida State and West Virginia so we’re looking to go out there and do the same thing.”
Ernest Aflakpui’s foul trouble opened the door for more minutes for 6’7″ forward J.P. Moorman, who wasn’t flashy with the ball, but posted a career-high five assists to along with six rebounds in slightly less than 23 minutes of play.
This game was Temple’s fourth consecutive game against a team with a new head coach. That’s certainly a way to open the season.
The game was a homecoming of sorts for Loyola-Maryland guard Chuck Champion, who played high school ball at Friends Central, as well as brothers Ethan and Sam Norton, who grew up in Collegeville, PA and went to The Hill School. James Five is also a graduate of The Hill School. There are quite a bit of Philly area ties to the Greyhounds.
Temple and Loyola-Maryland faced off for the first time since February 21st, 1930. For context, the number-one song was Happy Days Are Here Again by Ben Selvin and the top movie was The Vagabond King starring Dennis King and Jeanette MacDonald.
Photo: Irish Haines