By Sam Cohn
The Temple Owls grabbed a big win in coach Fran Dunphy’s final home opener, beating his alma mater, the La Salle Explorers, 75-67.
Sophomore guard Nate Pierre-Louis led the Owls with a double-double, grabbing a career-high 13 boards and dropping 14 points.
“He’s a whirling dervish out there,” said Dunphy.
La Salle jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first three minutes, showing pressure and intensity that the Owls couldn’t match.
Throughout the rest of the first half, it was a back-and-forth affair with neither team gaining a real advantage. The game was tied at 28 at the end of the half.
Temple found some early second-half momentum after De’Vondre Perry’s powerful slam-dunk, followed by a Pierre-Louis baseline jam.
Ball movement was a major key for both teams. La Salle was able to find open shots early, spending time with the shot clock and rotating the ball at a fast pace. Temple noticed it could get to the rim with more consistency after moving the ball with precision passing in-and-out of the lane.
Temple’s Shizz Alston Jr. and Ernest Aflakpui found success with the two-man game by running the pick-and-roll, dismantling the Explorers’ interior to get to the basket.
La Salle’s Miles Brookins started the night playing bully-ball, grabbing rebounds and muscling his way to the rim. The Owls made adjustments and kept him in check throughout, but he still finished with 10 points and 2 rebounds in 24 minutes.
“Temple crushed us on the glass,” La Salle head coach Ashley Howard said. La Salle’s 28 rebounds paled in comparison to Temple’s 50.
Both teams struggled from the field, with the Explorers shooting at 35% and the Owls at 38%. Yet, Quinton Rose was the spark plug for the Owls’ offense, leading the team with 15 points.
The Explorers took full advantage of their opportunities at the free throw line, going 15 for 18. Isiah Deas played a big part in that success, hitting all five from the line.
Alston Jr. hit a clutch bucket and four free throws down the stretch that sealed the victory for the Owls.
The Owls will host the Detroit Mercy this Friday in their second game of the four-game home stand to start the season.
“Any win is great,” Dunphy said. “After La Salle, I’m worried about Detroit.”
WHIP Player of the Game
Nate Pierre-Louis played a huge role in the Owls’ victory on opening night by helping create offense opportunities and setting an example on the defensive end with intensity and aggression. Pierre-Louis grabbed seven first half rebounds and finished the day with a double-double. He shot well from the charity stripe and even went two for two from deep. His presence was felt defensively as well, which is something he said he has been focusing on. His potential to grow quickly is very high.
Photo: Irish Haines