Aaron McKie’s first game as Temple’s head coach was no layup.
In a season-opening win against Drexel, the Owls often looked like a team with a first-year head coach that was welcoming a handful of contributors making their debuts
But Temple’s talent was enough to overcome a sloppy start in a 70-62 win against Drexel on Tuesday night at the Liacouras Center.
“I’ll take it,” McKie said. “I didn’t like the way we were playing. It could have been the first home game, a lot of guys are trying to do too much … I was just unsettled throughout the game.
“Again, I’ll take the win.”
Temple fans were excited to see change, but it was the established captains who led the way to the win. Junior guard Nate Pierre-Louis was as good as advertised on defense, grabbing five steals and turning it into a team-high 16 points.
He also added a team-high 10 rebounds to complete the double-double.
Senior Quinton Rose sat out much of the second half with an injury but still finished with 14 points. Pierre-Louis took control in his absence.
“I told him I got him,” Pierre-Louis said. “It’s next man up and I told him it’ll be fine.”
Drexel led by as many as five points a little more than two minutes into the second half as sloppiness plagued the Owls. Temple finished with 11 turnovers and shot 43% from the field. Three different Owls missed wide-open dunk opportunities.
But the game was stabilized midway through the second half when the Owls, led by Pierre-Louis and tri-captain J.P. Moorman, who finished with nine points and five rebounds, went on a 14-2 run, turning a 40-38 deficit into a 54-42 lead.
Temple opened the game with the up-tempo style players and coaches promised all offseason. Starting point guard Alani Moore opened the scoring with a corner three and the 30-second shot clock didn’t show single digits on the first handful of possessions.
Halfway through the first half, Rose made his presence felt. After an outlet pass from Moorman resulted in Rose and Hamilton running a two-on-one break, Rose stared down the defender, leapt into the contact, and slammed a dunk with one hand while taking the foul.
On defense,Temple’s pressure-filled, team-oriented style forced Drexel into 17 turnovers and held the Dragons to shooting 24-of-69 (34.8%) from the field.
But the Owls, who have stressed the importance of team rebounding for a team on the smaller side, lost the rebounding battle, 46-39. Moorman specifically cited rebounding, offensive execution, and transition defense as areas to improve upon following the win.
“I take it every bit personally,” Moorman said. “We failed in that department and that’s not going to take us where we want to go.”
When the game slowed down, Temple’s sloppiness ensued. The Owls allowed 10 offensive rebounds, resulting in six second-chance points in just he first half. The Dragons went on an 8-0 run and a team shooting just 26.3% from the field drew even with Temple, 31-31, at halftime.
But a disciplined second half in which Temple shot nearly 50% from the field and forced 11 Drexel turnovers closed out the first win of the Aaron McKie era.
Every player on scholarship for Temple saw action in the win, confirmation that McKie’s up-paced style would fully utilize what he believes is a deep bench. Temple routinely made quick substitutions, a noticeable change from last season and likely a sign of what is to come.