WRITTEN BY: TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
PHILADELPHIA — When factoring in youth, position alterations, and inexperience, the likelihood of scoring in large quantities can be slim — especially on opening night.
For Temple, expectations were similar, but the results couldn’t have deviated farther from the norm.
Behind a career-high 21 points from senior Daniel Dingle, the Owls had six players score in double-digits on Friday night, as Temple managed to edge the La Salle Explorers in overtime, 97-92, in a Big 5 season opener at the Liacouras Center.
The difference maker, however, turned out to be sophomore guard Shizz Alston, who scored seven points in the overtime period which solidified Temple’s victory.
“This exact moment is what I came here for,” said Alston, who finished with 14 points, six assists, and six rebounds. “Big 5, Friday night, it doesn’t get any better. You can’t get this at any other school. This moment, this means a lot for me.”
The Owls led La Salle by as many as 10 points in the second half, but the margin was squandered over the course of the last five minutes, as the Explorers generated a 20-10 run which ended with a game-tying three pointer from Jordan Price with five seconds left.
After heaving a last-chance desperation shot at the buzzer, Alston provided a motivational pep talk, and led by example.
“I knew in overtime I had to bring it home for us,” Alston said. “I brought the guys together and said, ‘This is what we have worked for. Stay together, and let’s win for a second time.'”
Temple had several other key contributors. Junior forward Obi Enechionyia scored 20 points along with a career-high 14 rebounds, while sophomore and freshman forwards Ernest Aflakpui and Quinton Rose finished with 12 points apiece. Along with a career-high 10 rebounds, it was Aflakpui’s first collegiate double-double.
“I think confidence-wise, this gives us a big boost,” Enechionyia said. “Anytime you win the first game, especially for the guys that have been here for a while, we know how that can help. Going from here, winning a Big 5 game like this, it’s about confidence, really.”
The Owls shot 49-percent (34-for-69) from the floor, and out-rebounded La Salle, 47-35.
“I thought overall, we ran some pretty good offense,” Owls head coach Fran Dunphy said. “It’s a terrific win for us. I think Shizz has been the steadying influence, like tonight with six assists and no turnovers. That was really helpful for us. He played very well. He’s got a better sense of who he is right now. It was not an easy freshman year for him.”
Due to the absence of senior guard Josh Brown, who remains sidelined due to an Achilles injury, true freshman Alani Moore earned the start at point guard, adding eight points in 30 minutes of play.
The leading scorers of the night happened to be La Salle’s end, as Syracuse transfer B.J. Johnson scored 23 points, while Price added 22.
With the victory, Temple (1-0, 1-0 Big 5) improved to 95-26 all-time in season openers. It was also the Owls’ highest point total in four seasons (101 points vs. LIU Brooklyn in Dec. 2013).
Temple’s brief two-game homestand wraps up on Monday night at 7 p.m. against New Hampshire.