BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Defense and toughness weren’t a problem in Temple’s uphill battle against fourth-ranked Duke on Friday night at Barclays Center. But the offense wasn’t close to what it needed to be as the Owls dropped a 74-54 decision to the Blue Devils.
Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad committed 17 turnovers and totaled just six assists in the contest. And they converted just 1 of 12 three-point attempts.
Those numbers were largely the result of Duke’s man-to-man pressure, which choked off passing lanes and often funneled the Owls into the lane – where star freshman Jahlil Okafor and his frontcourt mates stood waiting.
But as much as they struggled on offense, the Owls demonstrated once again that they aren’t the same defenseless bunch that managed just nine wins last season.
Earlier this week, the youthful but highly talented Blue Devils shot 54 percent from the floor in an 81-71 victory over Michigan State. They shot better than 60 percent in their previous two games.
But the Owls held them to a 39.1 percent shooting clip overall – just 30.8 percent in the first half.
“I thought our defense in the first half was really solid,” Dunphy said after the game.
Still, Duke led by 10 at the half.
The Owls scored just two baskets in the first six minutes, falling into a 13-4 hole. And every time they made a defensive stop and threatened to cut into the lead, a missed shot or turnover would give the ball right back to the Blue Devils.
Senior guard Will Cummings was the biggest culprit with eight turnovers.
“That’s all on me,” he said afterward.
Then again, his teammates didn’t help with quick shots and few attempts to make the extra pass – or even the first pass.
“We are not an assisting kind of team at this point in time,” Dunphy said.
The Owls held their own on the glass, grabbing 13 offensive rebounds and scoring 17 second-chance points. By comparison, Duke had 16 offensive boards but only five second-chance points.
Texas transfer Jaylen Bond figured to be a big reason for those numbers in his Cherry and White debut. But after scoring his first points on a one-handed putback dunk, Bond tweaked his injured ankle and left the game for a stretch. When he returned, he looked far less explosive and finished with two points and five rebounds in 19 minutes before fouling out.
Cummings led the team with 18 points, while Josh Brown had 11 and Quenton DeCosey had 10. Daniel Dingle added nine points.
As Dunphy stated, the guards were largely unsuccessful in setting up their teammates for easy buckets.
Junior center Devontae Watson did have some good moments against Okafor, a skilled 6-11 freshman who could be the number one pick in next year’s NBA Draft. Watson had eight rebounds and two blocked shots in the first half, and scored on an early hook shot. Okafor had eight points and seven rebounds at the break. He finished with 16 points (on 20 shots) and eight boards.
DeCosey contributed three blocks, while Cummings had three steals.
It was all part of a solid defensive effort – but not enough to truly threaten the Blue Devils.
The Owls will face UNLV on Saturday night. The Runnin’ Rebels were torched by Stanford on Friday night, falling behind 16-2 in the first five minutes and trailing by 23 points at halftime in what eventually became an 89-60 defeat.
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