The Temple Owls opened up the 2015-16 season this past Friday against the top ranked, University of North Carolina Tar Heels. The game was set in Annapolis Maryland at Navy’s Alumni Hall and was the first of two nationally televised contests. This was the first chance for Temple to earn some national recognition this season, and although it would be a tough test, the Owls came out of the gates on a mission.
The game opened up with Temple leading the Tar Heels, 9-4, behind Quenton Decosey’s five point burst of a made three-pointer and mid-range jump shot. Devin Coleman added four points to start as well, two via the free throw line and two off a layup. The Owls defense was playing well for the first five minutes of the game up to that point, holding the opposition to a poor 2/9 shooting. UNC head coach, Roy Williams called a timeout to regroup, and from there, the momentum started to shift away from the cherry-and-white and towards the Carolina blue.
The Tar Heels came out of the timeout out on a 7-2 run and snatched the lead for the first time in the game, as the Owls found themselves down by three, 14-11. Though the game stayed close throughout the first half, the Owls were never able to regain the lead. The opening half remained a battle, as Temple was able to tie the game on several occasions behind a strong offensive outing from Devin Coleman, who finished the first half tying his career high with 16 of the Owls 36 points, eight of which came consecutively as Coleman scored eight straight for Temple from the 3:47 mark all the way up until there were 16 seconds left in the first half. It was not enough however and the Owls found themselves in a manageable yet double-digit hole at halftime, trailing 47-36.
Temple ended the half with poor defense and left too many wide open three pointers for the Tar Heels — three of the five first half three-pointers by North Carolina came in the final two minutes of the half. Surely, the Owls planned to close out on the outside shot more in the second half, but to no avail.
In the final half of play, Temple cut the lead to as close as eight with 18:41 left to play, but that was the closest they ever got to North Carolina. The Owls were unable to contain the top-ranked roster of the Tar Heels which included the likes of Kennedy Meeks, Joel Berry II, Brice Johnson and Nate Britt. All four scored in double figures and Meeks led the way with a seasoning opening double-double, tallying a game high 24 points and 11 rebounds.
The final score was 91-67, putting the Owls at 0-1 to begin the season. Although the score may not show it, there were a number of bright spots for the Owls in their opening contest.
Devin Coleman scored a team high 19 points, proving that he can be a serious offensive option behind Quenton DeCosey, who scored 11 for the game. This was a question many seemed to ask with the departure of Will Cummings last season. Who would be the secondary scorer behind DeCosey? Many thought the next best option for the Owls would be this year’s freshman, Levan Alston Jr., but from what was shown against the top ranked Tar Heels, Coleman has a case for being a consistent and high scoring threat for the Owls with his ability to shoot the three ball well and finish around the rim.
Speaking of Levan Alston Jr., the newcomer hand an impressive outing in his first game as an Owl. The freshman put up 12 points on an accurate five-of-seven shooting and 50-percent from behind the arc in just 15 minutes of play. His high-school teammate, Trey Lowe, also had a decent showing in his first game for Temple as he put up eight points off the bench. Another Owl freshman, Ernest Aflakpui, scored his first points in cherry-and-white on his one and only field goal, ending the game with two points and two rebounds in 12 minutes.
All in all, poor rebounding, free throw shooting and shot selection is what ultimately put the nail in the coffin for the Owls. Temple totaled 27 rebounds while North Carolina grabbed 48 — the Owls were outrebounded by a margin of 21, 14 of which came on the offensive glass for the Tar Heels. Granted, the Owls stretch power forward, Obi Enechionyia, sat out due to an injury, but not even his athleticism would be able to make up for that large of a rebounding deficit. In offensive struggles, as a team Temple shot a total of 17 free throws and only made 10, resulting in an ugly 58.8-percent shooting from the line. The Owls also only made 24 of their 62 field goals, 38.7-percent from the field, almost as much as their three-point percentage, which was actually a decent 36-percent. Last year, the Owls shot 30-percent from three but with the additions of capable shooters such as Trey Lowe and Levan Alston, coach Dunphy may begin to run more sets which result in open perimeter shooters.
We will see if Temple decides to open up the floor more with three pointers when the Owls return to action on Thursday, November 19th, in the opening round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.