Obi Struggles, Owls Fall to UConn 73-59

Amida Brimah skies to reject Enechionyia, one of his six blocks on the night (Credit: Qaud City Times)

In a matchup between two AAC teams that were desperate for their second conference win, the Temple Owls lost to the UConn Huskies 73-59 at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, CT.

Temple and UConn have rich basketball traditions but the two programs have not had hot starts to their American Athletic Conference play. Coming in, they both had only won one of their first conference battles. With the threat of falling to 1-4 in AAC play, UConn dominated the paint on both sides of the floor in the win thanks to great performances from senior forward Kenton Facey and rim-protector Amida Brimah.

The 6-foot-10 Kenton Facey posted a career high 23 points, on 9/11 shooting, grabbed 10 rebounds for the double-double, and blocked two shots on defense.

Amida Brimah, who has blocked more than 300 shots while at UConn, denied six shots tonight and added in 13 points in only 26 minutes of play.

The two men down low were responsible for 8 of the Huskies’ 9 blocks, and led them a 52.8% shooting night where the team only had to make four three-pointers in order to put up 73 points on the night. UConn (7-9, 2-3) out-rebounded the smaller and much younger Owls 40 to 31.

Along with the stellar play of the Huskies big-men, sophomore guard Jalen Adams posted a double-double with 11 points and 12 assists.

The Huskies jumped out to an early 22-9 lead and never looked back on Wednesday night. The UConn lead was consistently double-digits throughout the contest, and they were up by as much as 14 in the first half until Temple’s Dan Dingle cashed a three-pointer as time expired in the first-half.

The Owls made a slight run of their own in the middle of the second half as they cut the UConn lead to 7, at a score of 55-48, but a few layups by the Huskies bounced the lead back up and over double digits as Temple continued to leave the paint wide open.

For Temple, three players recorded double digit scoring. Senior captains Daniel Dingle and Mark Williams had 10 apiece and point guard Shizz Alston Jr. had 13 points and 6 assists. The Owl’s leading scorer, junior Obi Enechionyia, had a night one would love to forget as he put up 7 points on 3 of 17 shooting, and 1 of 10 from behind the arc.

Also, freshman Damion Moore saw action as sophomore center Ernest Aflakpui got into early foul trouble. In Moore’s 7 minutes on the court he went a perfect 3 for 3 to get a career-high 6 points.

The Owls have a 1-5 record in true away games this season.

Between the absence of senior Josh Brown, freshman Quinton Rose and Alani Moore showing signs of slowing down, and the inconsistent shooting of Obi Enechionyia, Temple’s back-to-back wins against Top-25 teams are in the distant past.

The Owls will need to see more production from the young guards like Shizz Alston

Brown, who was coming off an Achilles injury, has not played since December 13th. The senior was averaging 7 points on 52% shooting, 2 rebounds and 2 assists per game. In Brown’s absence, the Owls have gone 3-4. With no Josh Brown, the Owls then looked to freshmen Quinton Rose and Alani Moore to pick up the slack. Rose and Moore played well and avoided typical freshmen mistakes early in the season, but the pair has struggled as of late. Moore has averaged 5 points on 26% shooting in AAC play and Rose has averaged 8 points on 36% shooting. In the loss to UConn, Rose had 1 point in 21 minutes play and Moore went 2/9 from the floor with six points.

With no Brown and the subpar play of the freshmen guards, the pressure has all gone to Obi Enechionyia to put the ball in the basket. The junior from Springfield, VA cannot have shooting nights like the one he had at UConn if the Owls want to make a run into March this season.

The non-conference season brought some fantastic wins that will look great for a March Madness resume. The Cherry and White took down top-ranked teams in Florida State and West Virginia at the Barclays Center, finished second in Big 5 play with their only loss to then #1 Villanova, and beat the Big East’s DePaul and the Yale Bulldogs, last years Ivy League champions.

With a 1-4 conference record, which puts the Owls in 9th place out of 11 teams, Temple will need to turn it around quickly so their excellent non=conference resume does not go to waste.

One key for the Owls is is shooting. When the Owls are above 40%, they are 9-1. When below, a brutal 1-7. Temple ranks 23rd in the country in turnovers, with only 11 per game.

The Owls will be back in action on Saturday, January 14th against Tulsa. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 o’clock at the Liacouras Center and the game will air on ESPNNews.

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