Three days after a pulsating overtime win over Big 5 rival La Salle before a large crowd in the opener of the 2016-2017 season, Temple returned to the Liacouras Center on Monday night.
The opponent, New Hampshire led by former Drexel coach Bill Herrion, didn’t bring out as much of the vocal fan base, nor the same level of play from the Owls. Temple rallied after a ragged first half but couldn’t close the deal after taking the lead briefly with less than two minutes to play and fell, 57-52.
"Definitely, in the layup line it felt flat, but I felt the energy pick up a little during the introductions," said Temple senior forward Daniel Dingle. "We have to bring our own energy. The crowd today they supported us, but it wasn't a packed house. We have to compete as soon as the ball goes up."
The Owls shot 9-for-34 overall and 2-of-14 on 3s in the first 24 minutes and went into the locker room down 30-24 after New Hampshire's Jaleen Smith banked in a running 3-pointer at the buzzer. The shot preceded an ill-advised 3-pointer by Dingle that was air-balled and went out of bounds with four seconds left.
That advantage was pushed to double digits as the Wildcats scored the first two buckets of the second half before the Owls fought back, though they never hit shots consistently, finishing 20-for-66 (30.3 percent) on the game and 6-of-27 (22 percent) from beyond the arc.
"We had to do something else, defend better, make them trade their threes for twos," said Temple senior Daniel Dingle. "But tonight wasn't our night."
Obi Enechionyia was the lone Temple player to stand out for the right reasons. He scored 20 points, pulled down seven rebounds, blocked two shots and didn't turn the ball over.
Temple didn’t do a good enough job defending the smaller Wildcats on the perimeter. New Hampshire took 3-pointers on 30 of their 57 shots, hitting 10 of them.
The Owls trailed one minute into the game when David Watkins hit the Wildcats’ second three-pointer for a 6-5 lead and the Wildcats stayed in front until Enechionyia buried a turnaround jumper with 4:10 left. It was a move the 6-10 forward went to repeatedly throughout the game.
But the Wildcats took advantage of a third look at the basket with Watkins burying a 3-pointer with 2:06 to play for a 51-49 lead.The Owls gave up only five offensive rebounds the entire game, but the two on that possession came back to haunt them.
"The numbers will tell you we defended OK," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy. "Who we didn't defend was Watkins. He played 19 minutes, scores 15 points and shoots 5-for-7 on 3s."
The Owls answered Watkins' 3 on Shizz Alston Jr.’s 3-pointer 19 seconds later - his only trey in 10 chances. But Smith hit a jumper with 1:21 left to give New Hampshire a 53-52 lead and the Wildcats hit four free throws down the stretch as the Owls came up empty on their last three possessions.
"I just want everyone to know what it feels like to lose, especially a game like this," said Enechionyia. "We have to go into practice with a different energy, so this doesn't happen again."