Steve Leonard Helps Spark Temple to Victory on Senior Day

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Sunday afternoon marked the final time seniors Obi Enechionyia, Steve Leonard and Josh Brown would play at the Liacouras Center. The Owls game against UCF was the team’s last home game of the season, and with it, their senior night.

While Enechionyia and Brown have been integral parts of Temple’s starting lineup for the entire season, Leonard has seen little playing time. That changed this past weekend as the 6-6 forward started in his first game for the Owls and he made the most of it.

In the opening minutes of the game, Leonard scored the first 6 points of the contest on 2 early 3-pointers.

When asked about the experience a grinning Leonard said, “I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.”

Courtesy: Temple University Athletics

However, Leonard’s early baskets served more than just a fond memory. Obi Enechionyia spoke about how important the senior’s spark was for the team.

“I think he set the tone for the entire game. He got the crowd into it early and once he hit those two shots we went on a run… He was huge for us today”

A set the tone, he did. Following his two 3’s the Owls went on a run scoring the first 16 points of the game.

From that point on, the team did not look back. Temple poured it on throughout the remainder of the game leading by as much as 24 points during the second half.

Quinton Rose led the team in the scoring department notching a total of 19 points. The Owls treated the seniors to a proper send off with the final score of 75-56 in favor of the cherry and white.

Temple’s next game comes on February 28th where they will be squaring off against the UConn Huskies.

 

Temple’s Winning Streak Ends Against Wichita State

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The Temple Men’s Basketball team’s 5-game winning streak has finally come to a close at the hands of Wichita State.

The game was a track meet as both teams ran up the scoreboard.

After an extremely impressive first half, the Owls were unable to hold on for the win. The team opened up the half with the hot-hand going on an early 11-0 run. While the Shockers were able to make dents in the lead at times, the Owls stayed in control and took a commanding 56-42 lead into half. The 56 points scored by the Owls were the most ever in a half during the Gregg Marshall-era.

Courtesy: Temple News

Unfortunately, Temple quickly saw this lead dissipate. The Shockers came out of the half on fire as an early 17-3 run tied the score.

From that point on it became an absolute dog fight with the two teams exchanging blows back and forth.

Perhaps the most crucial play of the game came at the 2-minute mark when Wichita State’s Zach Brown missed a 3-point shot, but Shaquille Morris recovered the offensive rebound put-back to give them the lead.

The Owls were able to keep it interesting throughout the rest of the game, but could not stop the Shockers.

Following a couple of free throws, Temple fell to Wichita State 93-86.

Prior to the game ESPN’s Joe Lunardi said this game can help, but not hurt the Owls due to their early win over the Shockers. However, he does believe that for Temple to make the tournament, the need to win the remainder of their games and make a run in the AAC tournament.

The Owls next contest is at home against a Houston team who is fresh-off a win against #5 Cincinnati.

 

Owls Get Earn Much Needed Win Over Tulsa

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It was not a pretty matchup, but the Owls got the job done Wednesday night against Tulsa.

In a game where Temple only shot 32.4% from the field, they were able to outlast the Golden Hurricanes to the score of 59-58.

The driving force behind this win was the Owls’ defensive tenacity. The men in cherry-and-white gave Tulsa headaches throughout the game forcing them to commit a whopping 18 turnovers compared to the Owls 6.

Shizz Alston, Jr. of Temple does a victory dance after their 97-92 overtime victory against La Salle on Nov. 11, 2016. CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

Things did not look good for Temple early in the game. Obi Enechnioyia, the team’s leading rebounder, and third-leading scorer, picked up 2 early fouls forcing him to the bench.

Fran Dunphy elected to use freshmen J.P. Moorman II as his replacement. Moorman II was so eager to get on the court, he forgot to take off his warmup pants.

The freshman’s motivation translated in a big way for the Owls. He was a key factor in the win logging 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals, which are the most of any Temple player this season.

Fran Dunphy cited Moorman II one of the freshmen who has been pushing himself to get more minutes and it is paying off.

This was most apparent in the closing seconds of the game where Moorman secured an offensive rebound and then assisted the cutting Josh Brown for the game-winning basket.

The game also saw a solid performance from Quinton Rose who was previously benched in place of Nate Pierre-Louis. Rose had 19 points while connecting on 4 of his 10 3-pointers.

The Owls’ next game will be against Penn at 2 pm on January 20th.

 

Owls Can’t Finish Another Close One

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It is difficult to think of a more flattening loss than what the Owls just endured.

After a late-game rally, Temple was able to push the game into overtime. Then, the Owls seemed to be destined for victory leading the Tigers 72-70 with just 9 seconds left in the game.

Unfortunately, this was not to be. Memphis’ Kareem Brewer hit a 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds left in regulation. Following a pair of Tigers free throws, the Owls officially lost the game to the score of 75-72.

This game did not come without Temple’s usual struggles. The Owls were unable to answer 3 runs for the Tigers, the worst of which being a 11-0 run halfway through the second half.

While this was a crushing loss for the Owls, there was a bright spot.

Nate Pierre-Louis got the first start of his collegiate career, in place of Quinton Rose, and made the most of it. The freshman led the team with 23 points, along with 5 rebounds and 3 steals. Pierre-Louis was clutch for the Owls as he hit a late 3-pointer as the team began to pull away from Memphis.

Pierre-Louis’ start also raises questions about the future of Quinton Rose, the player he started in place of. Rose is currently the team’s leading scorer, so this will be interesting to follow going forward.

The Owls next game will be on January 17th against Tulsa at 6 PM.

Temple Can’t Pull Off the Upset Over Cincinnati

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Quinton Rose has led the Owls in scoring throughout the year at 16.5 points per game.

On Thursday night, it took him until the second-half with 5:16 remaining to score his only 2 points of the game.

Fran Dunphy stated before their game against the University of Cincinnati that it would be a grind.

The two teams combined for 27 turnovers, 35% shooting from the field and 24% from beyond the arc.

Dec 2, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Temple Owls guard Josh Brown (1) dribbles the ball against the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights at Liacouras Center. The Temple Owls won 79-70. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the sloppy play, the Owls had control through the first and majority of the second half. But it was not enough for a full two halves.

Following Quinton Rose’s layup, the Owls went cold. Just as the Bearcats started to heat up. Cincinnati went on a 10-0 run following the score leading up to Kyle Washington’s 3-pointer which put the Bearcats up 52-50 with 1:59 remaining in the game.

The most scrutinized moment from this run comes with a technical foul call on Fran Dunphy. After a foul call on Ernest Aflakpui, Dunphy appeared to have smacked his water bottle off the announcers’ table and onto the court. The free throw assessed after the technical foul put the Bearcats within a point with 2:21 left in the game.

The Owls were able to mount a late comeback effort as Alani Moore II hit three late free throws to tie the game at 53-53 with 18 seconds left.

Cincinnati’s Jacob Evans nailed a pull-up jumper with just 4 seconds remaining in regulation.

The Owls were unable to answer, falling to the Bearcats 55-53 after leading the team for more than half of the game.

This loss makes 4 straight for the Owls and keeps them winless within the American Athletic Conference.

Temple will look to snap their losing streak on January 7th, away against the University of Central Florida.

 

Rebounding a Major Weakness for the Owls

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Temple Men’s Basketball has displayed one major flaw thus far this season, rebounding.

During Temple’s last four games, in which they lost three and hardly beat Drexel, the Owls have been out-rebounded 148 to 103. However, a large portion of this came from the blowout at the hands of Georgia. The Owls have only out-rebounded Tulane during this stretch of games, and they still lost to the Green Wave.

The team currently ranks dead-last in the American Athletic Conference for rebounding an average of 33.2 boards a game and a total of just 339 on the season. In comparison, the next lowest rebounding total in the conference is Memphis with 453 rebounds.

Courtesy: NBC Sports

Temple also holds the worst rebounding margin in the AAC. In fact, they are the sole team within the conference that holds a negative margin at -2.8. This may be alarming, especially considering that the Owls rank 287th for this statistic in the country.

Other NCAA rebounding ranks for the Temple is as followed: 313th in total rebounds, 296th in rebounds per game, and 216th in offensive rebounds per game.

Outside of Obi Enechnioya, Temple’s leading rebounder, the Owls top-4 rebounders are guards. Ernest Aflakpiu, the team’s starting center, is averaging just 2.7 boards a game. This can be attributed to the team’s design for guards to run the floor, as well as the significant minute difference between the top-4 rebounding players and rest of the team.

Rebounding is a key factor in any game and the rebounding battle often dictates the winner of a game. Temple will need to reevaluate their rebounding strategy in order to break this mid-season lull.

 

 

Enechionyia’s Efficiency is Key for the Owls

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It is no secret that Obi Enechionya has been struggling for the Owls.

In Temple’s last 3 games he has shot just 16% from the field. To put that into perspective, Lakers guard, Lonzo Ball, who is widely known for his struggles shooting is converting on just 34% of his shots. While it’s never good to go on scoring droughts like these, this is not out of the ordinary for the big man. Last season, he shot a mere 40% from the field in the regular season. Compare that to the 39% he is shooting this season, and there is nearly no drop-off at all.

However, Enechionya’s struggle come to a head you analyze his 3-point percentage. His offensive game gravitates around his 3-point stroke. At roughly 6’10, 220 pounds, he can play the prototypical role of a 3-and-D forward, or a stretch 4. Either way, he relies on his 3-pointer to space out opposing defenses which creates mismatches and cutting lanes for his teammates. Thus far this season, his 3-pointer has not been reliable.

During this 3-game “cold spell”, Enechionya is shooting just 10% from deep. On the year he is shooting just 31% from 3, which is 7% less than last season. This may not feel like a significant percentage, but it is. Compared to players in the NBA, the average 3-point percentage is 37%. In recent years, the 3-point shot has slowly improved showing the difficulties of improving the shot. The last time the NBA had shot an average of 31% from deep the year was 1987.

The Owls need Enechnionya to be more efficient and has been evident in their last few games. The team’s last 5 contests have been decided by 4-points or less — excluding the Villanova blowout. Temple would clearly benefit from an improved efficiency in their third leading scorer.

Even through his struggles he has shown glimpses of improvement in other areas. The most glaring of these is his free throw shooting. Last year, Enechionya shot 68% from the stripe, but now he is connecting on 85% of his attempts — a far cry from a season ago.

When Enechionya’s shots begin to fall, expect a much more dynamic Temple offense.

Quinton Rose Flashing Pro Potential

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In late June of this year, CBS Sports’ writer Reid Forgave came out with his first NBA mock draft. This featured highly touted player like DeAndre Ayton and Michael Porter Jr., but it also included the surprise entry of a Temple Owl. Forgave projected Quinton Rose to be drafted by the Raptors with the 26th pick in the draft. While this was obviously premature, it turned heads toward the Owls’ star guard – and so far, he has responded well.

Rose first began turning heads when he was selected to perform in the USA Men’s U19 World Cup. He was described as one of the surprise standout performers and become one of the final 18 players. Unfortunately, he was cut from the team, but that did not stop him from turning a few heads.

Now, Rose is carrying that momentum into the season. Currently, Rose is averaging 18.8 points and 6.2 rebounds, while shooting 51% from the field.  In 3 of his first 5 games this season he has scored 20 or more points. It is clear that Rose has made a point to improve his offensive skillset and particularly his jumper.

When asked about his attention to shooting this offseason he said, “I got a lot of 3’s up and a lot of midrange jump shots… I would do a certain amount (of shots) off-the-dribble, off of cuts, and off of screens…”

Rose also credited a large part of this improvement to his aggressive play style on offense. Whether that be driving to the hoop or taking a jumper, Rose says he just wants to make plays for the team.

With this improvement and success comes the possibility of getting drafted. While recent mock drafts from CBS Sports, Sports Illustrated and SB Nation have not projected Rose as a first-round pick, it’s hard to see him slipping out if he continues this success.

Oh, and as a final side-note, it may interest teams to know that Rose is still growing. When Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer asked Rose if he had grown, Rose responded, “Yes I have… I’m 6’7 now.” Without the hair, of course.

Owl’s Biggest Test Looms

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The Temple Owls won their second-straight game following their victory against the Cincinnati Bearcats. This marks the second victory in as many starts for quarterback Frank Nutile. After defeating both Navy and Cincinnati, Temple fans once again have hope their school will be selected for a bowl game. However, for the Owls to get there they will need to get through their biggest obstacle yet.

On Saturday, Temple will be playing against their AAC rival University of Central Florida. Currently, the Knights are the best team in the conference, and one of the best teams in the nation. The team is ranked 14th in the AP Top 25 and 12th in the Coaches Poll due to their 9-0 record.

This in large part has to do with the play of their head coach Scott Frost. After inheriting an rough 0-12 team, he has been able to rally his team and create one of the most well-rounded offenses in college football.

Frost has been generating national attention as he has turned a zero win team in 2015, to an undefeated team this year (College Football News)

One of the biggest standouts of this offense is quarterback McKenzie Milton. Milton has been great for the Knights with both his legs and his arm. So far this season he has thrown for 2,720 yards, 22 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions, while rushing for 350 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Milton is aided by his great receiver Tre’Quan Smith. The 6’1 junior has hauled in 40 catches for 761 yards and 10 TDs which ranks 7th in the country.

Mix this with their well-balanced rushing attack that features 6 players who have ran for over 100 yards and TDs on the season and you can understand why they are so highly rated.

Luckily, they do have a small weakness. While UCF may be ranked as the 40th overall defense in college football they have some flaws. First off, they allow nearly 150 rushing yards per game. With the recent emergence of David Hood, the Owls should look to continue his momentum in this game.

The second and more notable weakness of this defense is their pass defense. Currently, they rank 69th in the NCAA for most passing yards allowed. That is higher than Cincinnati who ranks 50th and who Nutile played well against.

If Nutile continues to distribute the ball to his wealth of receivers it seems likely that he leads the offense to another high scoring game.

For the Owls to beat UCF on Saturday, they will need to take advantage of the Knights’ subpar defense, while limiting their explosive offense.   

Can Frank Nutile Maintain Success?

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Frank Nutile has been great for the Owls this season. After nearly stealing a win from Army, Nutile lead Temple past a solid Navy team. This comes as a surprise to many as few expected the Owls to beat the Midshipmen. Still, Nutile was able to get the job done.

In the game he threw for 289 yards and 4 touchdowns completing 73% of his passes. With the exception of one garbage-time interception, the redshirt-junior played flawless football. However, this much early success forces me to wonder if Nutile can maintain this success.

Nutile has thrown six touchdowns to just one interception in his first tow career starts

As I stated earlier, “Frankie Juice” has been playing mistake-free since becoming the starter. In those two starts Nutile has thrown for 579 yards, 5 touchdowns and is completing an average of 71% of his passes. Most importantly, he’s spreading the ball around. After several weeks with Isaiah Wright being the heartbeat of the team’s passing attack, Nutile is giving other receivers a chance. Against Navy, Wright registered 3 catches for 35 yards, Keith Kirkwood had 7 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown, and Adonis Jennings lead the team with 127 yards and 2 touchdowns on 5 receptions.

Previously, the team was very one-dimensional in their passing attack, but now it appears they are using more of their weapons.

This success should translate against the Cincinnati Bearcats. They are currently 3-6, with a conference record of 1-4. They also give up 211 passing yards per game, which ranks 53rd in the country. This is far worse than Army’s defense giving up an average of 191 passing yards and Nutile was able to almost eclipse 300 against them. I would fully expect Nutile to continue his success against the Bearcats.

It’s also important to note that of Temple’s next three opponents, Cincinnati gives up the fewest passing yards per game. So, if Nutile does play well against the Bearcats it’s reasonable to believe it will be smooth sailing for the rest of the way.

Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see if Nutile can maintain his success going forward.