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Temple basketball team’s defensive dominance starts with Nate Pierre-Louis

The junior guard and captain leads the AAC in steals and held the top scorer from St. Joseph's to two points Tuesday.

Temple teammates (from left) Nate Pierre-Louis, Jake Forrester, and Quinton Rose celebrating near the end of their victory over St. Joseph’s on Tuesday.
Temple teammates (from left) Nate Pierre-Louis, Jake Forrester, and Quinton Rose celebrating near the end of their victory over St. Joseph’s on Tuesday.Read moreCHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

Temple’s home loss to Missouri hurt Nate Pierre-Louis. It was the worst shooting night in six seasons for the Owls, and the junior guard and captain contributed four of their season-high 19 turnovers.

Two days later, the Owls were getting set to welcome Big 5 rival St. Joseph’s with star guard Ryan Daly fresh off a 32-point performance against No. 20 Villanova in a tight loss.

The pressure was on, and the turnaround had to be quick. So what did Pierre-Louis do to cope? He used that disappointment to work harder in the film room.

“It was all just Ryan Daly and St. Joe’s,” Pierre-Louis said Tuesday. “I replayed his game over and over and over in my head before we played. I know he’s a 22-a-game scorer. He’s their guy. I hold myself to a high standard defensively, and I wanted to show that to my team.”

He did just that as his team beat the Hawks, 108-61, Tuesday night at the Liacouras Center. It was the first time since 2013 that Temple (7-2) scored more than 100 points, and the largest margin of victory ever between the schools.

Temple’s defense created offense, culminating in 26 fast-break points and 22 points from turnovers, and the shooting woes of the previous game seemed to disappear. The Owls also outscored the Hawks, 66-14, in the paint.

The offensive dominance was impressive, but much of it stemmed from how Pierre-Louis contained Daly.

The Owls’ top defender, used to guarding opposing teams’ leading scorers, held Daly to two points for the game. The Hawks’ top talent shot 1-for-8 from the floor and was taken out of the game for good with 11 minutes to play.

How did Pierre-Louis do it?

“Well, the first thing is I knew he was a driver,” Pierre-Louis said. “I know he’s a strong right-hand driver. I wanted to push him left because if I pushed him left, he was either going to jump stop, pump fake and kick it out. That’s all I was trying to make him do all game.

“With jump shots, just contest, don’t reach, and stay in front of him all game to make his life really, really hard on offense,” he added.

That formula worked, and without Daly’s regular offense, the Hawks sputtered.

“I don’t know any team that isn’t putting their best defender on Ryan Daly,” St. Joseph’s coach Billy Lange said. “I just think it was their overwhelming athleticism to get to his drive and still get out and contest shots that was impressive.”

As Lange noted, it takes more than one person to stop a player as impressive as Daly, and Temple’s team athleticism showed. Temple coach Aaron McKie has stressed the importance of team defense all summer and noted the collective effort it took to hold the Hawks to 21-for-67 shooting.

The Owls this season have allowed only one opponent to shoot better than 40% from the field: No. 3 Maryland, at 42.9%. They have given up the fewest points per game in the American Athletic Conference, 60.1.

Leading the way, Pierre-Louis has stressed his pride in defense and a desire to battle top scorers. So far, it’s worked out. Pierre-Louis leads the AAC in both steals per game (2.3) and defensive rebounds per game (7). Last year’s Big 5 Most Improved Player has only continued to improve.

“It’s what Nate do,” McKie said. “No one’s going to talk about that. Everyone’s going to look at the score. But at the end of the day, Nate got it going for us by keeping him quiet.”

“First-team all defense,” Temple forward Jake Forrester added.