It had only been 15 days, but it seemed like an etermity.
That’s how long it been between victories for the Temple men’s basketball team. The Owls were 12-4 after a win at Tulane on Jan. 7 and were seemingly on their way to win No. 13 holding a double-digit lead against Tulsa in the second half on Jan. 10.
But then senior point guard Will Cummings went down with a leg injury and the game against the Golden Hurricane slipped away. Losses to SMU and Cincinnati – one in which Cummings played limited minutes and another he didn’t play at all – followed.
On Thursday, Cummings returned to the starting lineup and the Owls returned to their winning ways, drubbing South Florida, 73-48. Temple improved to 13-7 overall and 4-3 in the American, while the Bulls fell to 7-12, 1-5.
Cummings’ stats weren’t off the charts – 12 points, three assists – but it’s clear the Owls play better with his steady presence.
“It’s terrific, he’s our leader, he’s somebody you trust greatly in everything he does,” said Dunphy. “It’s nice to have him out there in seemingly good health. Hopefully with six days until the next game, it will make the (injury) issue a foregone conclusion.
“We need his leadership. He’s still very good on the defensive end, even if he’s not as explosive as usual on the offensive end.”
Cummings said he isn’t 100 percent recovered but is improving.
“I felt pretty good, it felt good to have some explosiveness and get a good victory,” said Cummings. “There are still things I still can’t do. That will come in time and it will get better every day. I’m just ready to get back on the court and continue the rest of the season.”
Temple trailed early 14-10 but Daniel Dingle hit a three-pointer and it sparked a 29-10 run to end the half. After blowing two double-digit second-half leads in the recent three-game losing streak, the Owls kept the pedal down on Thursday and were never threatened.
It was arguably Dingle’s best game of the season as he came off the bench for seven points in 16 productive minutes. Dunphy said if Cummings wasn’t able to go, he may have even turned to the sophomore forward for some minutes at the point.
“He made the big jumper and we sort of took off,” said Dunphy.
As much as Cummings return was a key, so was the return of Jesse Morgan’s jump shot. The guard’s shooting woes had been a contributing factor to some recent losses.
Morgan went 5-of-8 on three-pointers on the way to 19 points. He is 8-of-13 from range the last two games after a 3-for-23 stretch the previous two.
“It’s just better shot selection, just taking better shots when I’m open and have time to lock in,” said Morgan.
Morgan admitted it was nice having a reasonably healthy Cummings deliver him the ball so he could get those open looks.
“It makes a big difference, he’s poised, he’s a senior, he’s a veteran,” said Morgan. “It makes it a lot easier to have a ball-handler who will make great decisions down the stretch and keep the game at his pace. He did a great job making an impact on the game.”
Cummings returns, so does a win
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