Temple had its longest delay to the start of a basketball season since 1936 and played that way.
Ready to get going, the Owls raced out to a 16-2 lead and never looked back on the way to defeating NJIT, 72-60, at the Liacouras Center.
It was a lot to take away for a Temple team that ranked 296th in the nation in returning minutes. Freshman Jeremiah Williams started at point guard, redshirt freshman Damian Dunn started at shooting guard, and familiar faces J.P. Moorman, De’Vondre Perry, and Jake Forrester rounded the lineup.
Williams, the first Temple freshman guard to start a season opener since Mardy Collins in 2002, had 11 points and four assists. Damian Dunn’s season was cut short after one game last year, but he showed why Aaron McKie likes his game. Dunn led the Owls with 18 points.
“I was pretty impressed with both of those guys,” McKie said of Williams and Dunn. “We have thrown a lot at Jeremiah Williams.”
“Coming back first game just had me reminiscing a little bit about how I missed the game,” Dunn said. “It really felt good.”
It was the senior Perry who put together a dominate performance. He finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds. It was his first career double-double and a career high in rebounds.
“It was just part of our game plan,” Perry said. “Our coaches emphasized getting to the offensive glass, boxing out, getting to a body first and getting to the board.”
Things weren’t perfect. Temple’s youth showed in the second half when NJIT went on an 11-0 run and eventually got within eight. The Owls shot 9-for-28 in the second half after shooting 48.1% in the first 20 minutes.
As was the case earlier in the game, it was a senior who stopped the bleeding. J.P. Moorman didn’t take a shot in the first half, but he made the second-half attempts count. Moorman scored 10 points after intermission, making 3 of his 4 three-point shots.
Dartmouth transfer Brendan Barry made his debut as an Owl and played 25 minutes despite joining the team this week. He showed why he was regarded as a shooter. All four of his shot attempts were from three.
Barry’s lone made triple came with 9 minutes, 26 seconds left in the first half. His triple regained Temple’s double-digit lead and the Owls stayed up by more than 10 points until a Highlander layup made it an eight-point game with 8:16 remaining.
The Owls’ next scheduled game is against the No. 6-ranked Houston Cougars.
The season opener was a tale of two halves, but the Owls learned a lot about themselves in their only scheduled nonconference game before AAC play.
“It’s still a work in progress,” McKie said. “You want to see how your guys respond to adversity. We got a chance to see them in a late-game situation. "