Written by: Ray Dunne
PHILADELPHIA, PA- Bouncing back from a heartbreaker is never easy. Just take a look at Temple’s first 25 minutes of play on Saturday afternoon.
After falling to Miami 78-77 in the closing seconds of their game in Brooklyn on Tuesday night, the Owls set out for redemption at home against Rider.
They found it, but only after a dramatic second half in which the Owls erased a 14 point deficit.
Just about everything a team can do to lose a basketball game, Temple managed to do in the first half. Eight turnovers, getting outrebounded 27-17, and a scorching 7-of-14 effort by Rider from beyond the arc in the first twenty minutes all contributed to the early deficit.
When the struggles spilled into the second half, Temple head coach Aaron McKie had seen enough and took a timeout with his team trailing 50-37.
“We just weren’t ourselves,” McKie said. “I wanted those guys to consistently think [about] being present…Sometimes you come out in games and you just aren’t at your best and teams are giving you their best.”
What came next would be Temple’s best. After Stevie Jordan connected on a free throw for Rider, the Owls exploded to a 21-0 run that flipped the script of the game and fueled Temple’s 78-66 victory over the Broncs.
The run featured a little bit of everything. Alani Moore, Josh Pierre-Louis, and Dre Perry all knocked down three pointers. Perry and fellow forward J.P. Moorman II each hit a mid-range jumper. Quinton Rose hammered home a dunk.
The biggest contribution, however, came from Arashma Parks’ jolt of energy off the bench.
“[Parks] stepped in and played a huge role in that second half for us, getting the offensive rebounds, throwing his body around, being active,” sophomore forward Jake Forrester said. “We needed that to get on a roll in the second half.”
The offensive rebounds, three to be exact, and the subsequent six second chance points he scored off those boards helped turn the tides in the Owls’ favor. The redshirt freshman finished +15 in over eleven minutes off the bench, most coming during the second half run.
On a night where Jake Forrester saw his first start, Parks may have solidified his role as his back-up for the time being. Junior forward Justyn Hamilton, who started the team’s first ten games, saw no minutes in the win.
The situation still remains fluid on who will earn those minutes down low.
“It could change on a weekly basis,” McKie said. “Whoever is giving the energy and the effort is going to get the minutes. It’s that simple.”
As for other first-year players solidifying their place in the rotation, look no further than Josh Pierre-Louis, who finally seems healthy after a nagging wrist injury over most of December. The freshman guard had a great game, posting 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting and finished +22 in his 21+ minutes of action.
Once again, the bench did its part, providing 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting. This marks the third straight game that Temple has seen more than 25 points provided by its second unit.
“I just see those [bench] guys coming in and playing their role. They’re going to defend, they’re going to get after you, they’re tough,” said Rider head coach Kevin Baggett. “They’re buying into everything that coach is asking them.”
Tough might be an understatement for some.
Dre Perry got elbowed in the mouth early on in the game on Saturday and had his tooth go through his lip, according to McKie in the postgame presser. That didn’t stop the junior forward from posting eight points in the second half.
His shooting contributions were a part of an underlying theme for the Owls as of late, an improvement in their three point shooting. Temple shot the ball at a 29.4% clip (58-of-197) from beyond the arc in their first eight games of the season. In the last three games, they’ve shot 45.1% (32-of-71) from three.
In that stretch, Alani Moore (60%, 12-of-20) and Perry (63.6%, 7-of-11) have been video game level incredible from deep.
“We spend a lot of time shooting threes and I told them ‘Look we’ll make shots as time goes on. If you’re open, be confident, shoot,’” said McKie. “I have all the confidence in the world. I’ll never tell them not to take those shots.”
The win pushed Temple to 8-3 going into conference play, which starts on New Year’s Eve against UCF in Orlando, Florida. For now, the Owls will have a little bit of a break to enjoy the holiday.
That doesn’t mean a break entirely. Both coaches and players understand that in order to keep a good thing going, they’ve got to stick with it.
“I told them…enjoy your families when you go home, but don’t think about yourself, think about your team,” McKie said his parting message to the team was. “Don’t go lay on the couch and watch TV all day, take a day or two, go get on a treadmill at your high school, go get some shots up. Keep your conditioning up because it’s so hard to get to peak conditioning for the season, but it’s so easy to lose it.”
“I wouldn’t say I’ll take a couple days [off], I might rest my body, watch some film, go to a nutritionist, something to keep me ready to go,” Alani Moore said.
One has to imagine the break will feel a little bit better coming off of a win, no matter how they got there.