Cherry And White Night Recap

With Temple football taking its act on the road this week, the Owls men’s basketball team was able to enjoy center stage on campus for the first time this fall.

With Temple football taking its act on the road this week, the Owls men’s basketball team was able to enjoy center stage on campus for the first time this fall.

The stars were out and Owls spirit was high as the Temple men’s basketball team was formally presented to students and fans at Friday's "Cherry and White Night" event at McGonigle Hall. With Owls players donning shooting shirts with their Twitter handles emblazoned on the back, they shared the court with fellow students in an effort to create excitement for the upcoming season. Michael Carter-Williams, the 2013-14 NBA Rookie of the Year and Philadelphia 76ers second-year guard, also watched from the stands.

UMass transfer and Olney-native Jesse Morgan was introduced to the fans in attendance just as the rest of his teammates were. Unlike the rest of the Temple roster, it remains to be seen whether Morgan will be granted eligibility for the entire 2014-15 season.

Temple head coach Fran Dunphy told there was no update to Morgan’s eligibility status and that he had hoped to have an answer from the NCAA by now.

“Hopefully, within the next 10 days, we’ll have an answer there,” Dunphy said. “We were hoping to hear a little bit before this… If we hear in the next 10 days, we’ll feel pretty good. It would be wonderful for (Morgan). He’s done a really good job and he’s done everything we asked him to do.”

If the Owls’ request to the NCAA is denied, Morgan will only be eligible for one semester in his senior year.

Between now and Temple's Nov. 14 season-opener against American, Dunphy said the Owls will obviously look to improve in every area. There will be heavy emphasis on defense, though.

“We’re going to try be better defensively this year,” Dunphy said. “Our offense last year was good. The defense was not nearly where it needed to be, so that’s what nearly all of the focus has been on in preseason thus far. The reality is that we’ll do it (focus on defense) all year long.”

Temple junior center Devontae Watson said the Owls have been working on the most fundamental aspects of defensive basketball — things like maintaining a proper defensive stance and not allowing themselves to come up into an upright, slouching position.

It probably scares some Owls fans to think that Dunphy’s team is spending time working on the rudimentary elements of the game, but the truth is that these small details were lacking during the 2013-14 season. The Owls conceded more than 78 points per game to the opposition last season, allowing opponents to shoot 47 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3-point range.

The results of focusing on the more mundane aspects of playing defense are starting to show, Watson said.

“Our help-defense is a lot better,” Watson said. “People are helping one another out and talking, saying where somebody is, letting them know where they’re going …. I would say our on-ball defense in general and just stopping people (is improving). We’re taking a lot more pride in our defense right now, definitely.”

During the event, Temple players also had the opportunity to mingle with former Syracuse standout Carter-Williams. Dunphy recalled a previous encounter with the player known locally as “MCW” — it was during an upset win against Syracuse in December 2012.

Unranked Temple jumped the previously-undefeated and third-ranked Orange, 83-79, and denied Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim his 901st career win.

Dunphy said Temple was lucky to win that game considering Syracuse had a player of Carter-Williams caliber in its arsenal.

“(Carter-Williams) is just a good guy and he loves Philadelphia,” Dunphy said. “Philadelphia’s been good to him already… I have a lot of respect for him as a player and more respect for him as a person.”

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