It hasn’t been pretty, but Temple is 2-0 under head coach Aaron McKie.
In a 75-57 victory over Morgan State at the Liacouras Center on Saturday afternoon, the Owls struggled from the field but relied on the strength of their defense to carry them to victory.
“We hang out hat on our defense,” McKie said. “You’re going to have games when you can’t make shots and you’ve got to rely on your defense to help you win those games.”
Junior guard and captain Nate Pierre-Louis led the way on both ends of the floor. On Tuesday, Pierre-Louis became the first Temple player in 13 years to score at least 15 points with 10 rebounds and five steals. On Saturday, he did it again, tallying 19 points, 11 rebounds, six steals, and five assists. All were team highs. He has three consecutive double-doubles dating back to last season.
Pierre-Louis turned three steals into electrifying fast-break dunks. He forced another one in the second half and advanced the ball to senior wing Quinton Rose, who slammed it home as part of his 16 points.
The Owls scored 15 fast-break points, grabbed 12 steals, forced 19 turnovers, and scored 27 points on turnovers. It was crucial to their success as they shot just 24-of-65 (36.9%) from the field, including 7-of-32 (21.9%) from three-point range.
“We can’t bank on fast breaks all the time,” said Rose, who was 4-of-14 from the field, including 1-of-5 from three-point range. “When we get to conference play, teams aren’t going to be turning over the ball like that. We just have to get our half-court offense together.”
Temple got a boost from junior forward De’Vondre Perry, who tallied 12 points while shooting 4-of-6 from the field in 20 minutes off the bench. When Temple needed points in the second half, he knocked down two major three-point shots in back-to-back possessions to keep the lead at double digits.
Senior point guard Alani Moore, who led the Owls in minutes on Tuesday, put together another strong performance with 14 points from 5-of-12 shooting. Moore has struggled on the defensive end of the floor in his time at Temple, but his improvement over the offseason has been noticeable. Against Morgan State, he had three steals and three rebounds.
Defense was crucial in Temple’s first two wins of the 2019-2020 season. Under McKie, it could be sign of what’s to come.
“We’re going to come in on a nightly basis and daily basis and try to win games on the defensive side," McKie said. "I know it’s really hard to try to do that night in and night out because some guys are going to make shots, but we feel our strength is in our numbers.”