Zone Of Contention

The Temple men's basketball team held a comfortable second-half lead against Penn when the Quakers switched to zone and a 15-point advantage became a two-point deficit before the Owls recovered to win the game, 78-73, on Saturday. But the cold-shooting Owls weren't so fortunate on Monday night in the home opener against Kent State.

The Temple men's basketball team held a comfortable second-half lead against Penn when the Quakers switched to zone and a 15-point advantage became a two-point deficit before the Owls recovered to win the game, 78-73, on Saturday.

But the cold-shooting Owls weren't so fortunate on Monday night in the home opener against Kent State when they let an eight-point lead dissipate and never recovered in an 83-79 setback.

With two days off before playing at Towson on Friday night, the Owls know one of the biggest areas they have to work on.

"I think we need to focus on getting the ball in the middle more and we've kind of lacked precision as far as who's on the corners and who's down low," said Temple's junior center Anthony Lee. "I think if we take our time, once we get to the middle, we can really break up the defense.

"When we start practicing (against zone) more, whoever is at the top starts getting more comfortable, we'll be able to catch, turn, face and see who's down low. And then I think we can make a defense get out of that."

Temple is just 11-of-43 on three-pointers, which is usually the most efficient way to beat a zone. The Owls are not loaded with shooters – Dalton Pepper and Quenton DeCosey are threats, but they are a combined 8-for-26 right now with the rest of the team 3-for-17.

"When everybody starts hitting shots it will help us out, but today they kind of slowed us down," said DeCosey after the loss. "We were kind of stagnant."

Kent State coach Rob Senderoff agreed watching the tape of the Penn game revealed the Owls could struggle when faced with zone.

"We did play a little bit of zone, which helped a little bit," said Senderoff. "I did watch the (Penn) game and saw it was a 16-point lead that got down playing zone. That had a little bit to do with why we went to zone, because they struggled the first game and just trying to keep guys on the floor and not having to play 40 minutes of man-to-man.

"DeCosey hit a couple (threes). He struggled in the first half, and you know he's a good shooter, but you have to give something up. In the first half, we were giving up so many layups on penetration. Given the choice in the second half, we decided to make it harder for them to penetrate and make them have to shoot."

Last season, the Owls shot just 32 percent as a team, but had Jake O'Brien coming off the bench and shooting 43 percent on 3s. Khalif Wyatt (32 percent) and Scootie Randall (30 percent) didn't have great percentages from long range but combined for 143 three-pointers.

With so little experience, the Owls will need to find an offensive identity and likely it won't be a team that is connecting from beyond the arc too frequently. They'll need to feed Lee and penetrate, but zones could make the strategy tougher.

The Owls did put five players in double figures on Monday - and the 83 points allowed was more of an issue than the lack of offense – but they will certainly see more teams trying to defend them with a zone defense until they prove they can beat it.

"We had a little bit of panic on the offensive end, and we're still trying to get to where we need to be in terms of trusting each other," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy. "If we could have made a couple extra passes and not panicked a little bit, that would have helped us.

"I like our team, I like who were are, but we have to tighten some things up."

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