KENT, Ohio – Nobody expected Scootie Randall to lead the Temple men's basketball team in scoring in his first college game since March 2011. Except maybe his head coach and his teammates. And maybe Randall himself.
So nobody in the Owls locker room was surprised when Randall celebrated his return to the lineup with a career-best 31-point outburst in Temple's 80-66 victory at Kent State on Tuesday afternoon at the MAC Center.
Randall nailed five three-pointers, the biggest coming early in the second half after the Golden Flashes had erased a 15-point first half deficit and tied the game at 46-46. The 6-6 senior drilled consecutive threes to make it 52-46, and the Owls pulled away for the season-opening victory.
With senior guard Khalif Wyatt somewhat limited after tweaking his hamstring late in the first half, Coach Fran Dunphy needed extra offense and got it from Randall and sophomore center Anthony Lee, who scored a career-high 16 points.
Over and over in the second half, Lee dove into the lane and either finished at the rim or drew a foul. Lee's inside game was complemented by the perimeter shooting of Randall and Boston University transfer Jake O'Brien, who sank a pair of threes in his Temple debut.
The Owls also showed the ability to score in transition, often kickstarted by Kent State's 21 turnovers and sometimes-iffy shot selection. Temple was also fairly sloppy with 19 turnovers.
Wyatt played just six minutes in the second half (17 overall), but he did post a team-high six assists and scored nine points. Wyatt's absence meant extra work for West Virginia transfer Dalton Pepper (23 minutes), who struggled at times to find his place in the offense and finished with four points, four rebounds, and four turnovers. But Dunphy was mostly positive in his comments about Pepper after the game.
Sophomore Will Cummings and grad student T.J. Dileo shared the point guard job on opening day, with Cummings getting the start but DiLeo handling the ball when it really counted.
DiLeo was nearly flawless in 23 minutes, totaling nine points and three assists. His only turnover came in the final minute of play, when the game was already decided. Cummings flashed his speed and had a couple really nice assists, but also committed three turnovers in 18 minutes.
With DiLeo on the floor in the first half, Temple's lead grew from 14-9 to 36-24. When he re-entered in the second half, the Owls had a 49-46 lead. Eventually they led by as much as 17.
Temple shot 53 percent from the field and limited Kent State to a 37 percent shooting clip. As usual, senior forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson was the key piece for Dunphy's defense. In 34 minutes, he contributed "threes" across the stat sheet, with three points, three rebounds, three blocked shots, and three steals.
Of note, the Owls committed just 13 fouls in the contest. Kent State was aggressive in pulling down 20 offensive rebounds, but was overaggressive in committing 22 fouls, including two technical fouls in the second half.
Always one of the best teams in the Mid-American Conference, and usually good for 20 wins, Kent State is not expected to be quite as good as usual this season. But they did open the season with an overtime victory over CAA favorite Drexel.
The Owls will host Rice in their home opener on Saturday night.
Postgame Notes ... Dunphy could only speculate about Wyatt's status after the game ... Freshman Devontae Watson and Quenton DeCosey saw their first action in the final minute of play. Watson blocked the first shot taken against him and DeCosey got on the scoreboard with a breakaway dunk ... Watson and O'Brien had family members at the game.
Postgame Press Conference
Dunphy (Part 1):
Dunphy (Part 2):