In the Arena: Owls Avoid Upset Against Blackbirds

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

The Owls had to scramble at times, but pulled away late for a win against the Blackbirds.

Temple 70, LIU-Brooklyn 56 – Box Score

Thanksgiving weekend was almost over, but LIU-Brooklyn was hoping to serve Temple a slice of humble pie Sunday afternoon. The Blackbirds were looking to avenge a 36-point loss to the Owls a season ago, and over the first 20 minutes, it looked like that might just happen. In the first half, Temple shot just 1-15 from behind the arc, while allowing 6 made threes from the Blackbirds, to trail by 7 heading into the locker room. Asked after the game whether his team might have looked past LIU after what happened last season, Will Cummings said, “You’re a young team and you got guys who think you can walk out there and get the same result as last year…We just had to refocus and stop taking teams for granted and come out and play our game.”

Fortunately for Temple, they were still just one Quenton DeCosey hot streak from climbing back into the game. The junior wing hit 3 threes in the first 6 minutes of the second half, scoring a game-high 15 points. As part of that second half surge, DeCosey dialed up back-to-back long-distance shots to give the Owls a 46-45 lead that they would never relinquish. Coach Fran Dunphy on the junior’s performance, “DeCosey saved us a little bit in the second half…those 3 threes got us back in it.”

While DeCosey helped propel the Owls back into the game, it was the work by junior transfer Jaylen Bond that was the most consistent factor in the victory. The big man ended the game with his first career double-double, finishing with 11 points and a career-high 13 rebounds (7 of which came on the offensive end). Coach Dunphy, speaking to Bond’s impact on the offensive glass, said, “It’s an unbelievable asset to your team. He’s so quick to the ball, he’s so strong, and he’s so smart as to where the ball’s coming off. He reads where the ball’s coming off as well as anybody I know.” With Bond, Cummings (10 rebounds), and Dan Dingle (8 rebounds) all having career-highs on the glass, the Owls were able to enjoy a 21-6 advantage in second-chance points, which was as large a reason as any for the team’s victory.

While the Owls were having better luck offensively in the second half, they also stepped up the defensive intensity. Cummings said, “We really focused on the defensive end. That was the whole topic in the locker room, got to get stops because they were killing us running their sets, getting cuts, and making shots.” That renewed focus paid off for the Owls as the Blackbirds cooled off after halftime, shooting just 1-12 from three in the second half. LIU guard Gerrell Martin was 5-6 from the field for 12 points in the first half, but went scoreless in the second frame, while Landon Atterberry led the Blackbirds with 13 points (including an alley-oop slam that served as LIU’s highlight of the night).

Hopefully, the Owls are figuring things out at the right time, as 3 of their next 4 games come against Big 5 opponents. By his own estimation, Bond is about 90% healed from his early-season ankle injury. If he can provide the needed interior presence alongside the experienced backcourt of Cummings and DeCosey, the Owls might be able to do some damage against their city rivals. We’ll find out when Temple heads to Hawk Hill Wednesday night.

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