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Morgan fits in at Temple in a hurry

NEWARK, Del. - Temple coach Fran Dunphy walked out of the postgame news conference Thursday night at the Bob Carpenter Center and ran into his Delaware counterpart, Monté Ross.

Temple's Jesse Morgan. (Steven M. Falk/Staff Photographer)
Temple's Jesse Morgan. (Steven M. Falk/Staff Photographer)Read more

NEWARK, Del. - Temple coach Fran Dunphy walked out of the postgame news conference Thursday night at the Bob Carpenter Center and ran into his Delaware counterpart, Monté Ross.

"I really like how you eased Jesse Morgan into things," the Blue Hens coach joked.

It had been almost two years since Morgan had participated in a college basketball game. The former Massachusetts starter and second-leading scorer found out just before the game that there would be no easing in. He would start in his first Temple game.

"He hadn't played in a couple of years," Dunphy said. "I wanted to get him out there as quickly as possible - more that than anything else."

Morgan, who has just this season of eligibility remaining, didn't get hot right away before he gave way to Clemson transfer Devin Coleman, a junior who hit two three-pointers in his first 62 seconds in a Temple uniform.

Yes, the new guys make a big difference for the Owls. OK, it was Delaware, which is winless and starting over with a new group after last season's NCAA appearance. Yes, Monday's game with Kansas at the Wells Fargo Center will be something else entirely. But nobody could deny the cause and effect. A team that had made just 25.9 percent of its three-pointers this season suddenly made 16, from eight players.

Owls point guard Will Cummings had been struggling to find a rhythm. On Thursday, Cummings had 10 assists and no turnovers. Morgan and Quenton DeCosey each got hot outside and led Temple with 16 each as the Owls improved to 7-4 with the 82-62 victory.

Morgan's big offensive spree came early in the second half. An inbounds pass was thrown to the wing, then fed to Morgan up top. His defender was right on the three-point line. But Morgan was deep enough beyond that. He hesitated just for a second, then hit the shot.

The next time down, Morgan dribbled to almost the same spot, and didn't hesitate at all before he let it fly again, probably a 23-footer. He was open, Morgan explained later, and had to take them.

"That's way beyond pro range," Dunphy said. "He's got range."

The Olney High graduate had been dismissed by UMass after several undisclosed violations of university rules. But the dismissal apparently didn't sit well within the athletic department there. Morgan, considered a team leader for the Minutemen, tore his anterior cruciate ligament in January 2013. His recovery would have to take place elsewhere, and he couldn't take classes there, which almost cost him this chance to play.

"We talked a lot to the UMass guys, and they were very much of in favor of him coming back to school in Philadelphia and that we give him an opportunity," Dunphy said. "I went to our administration and said, 'We've got a good kid here. He's had a couple of issues, but I think he's really worth it.' "

Morgan has graduated from Temple. The school had tried to get him eligible last year, but it didn't happen. Eventually, the NCAA ruled he could play one more semester this season, his choice of which one. It makes sense that he's playing now, not just because he can be eligible for postseason play but because most of Temple's league games are really going to be up for grabs.

Another clear factor in Morgan's starting: He got the assignment of guarding Delaware sharpshooter Kyle Anderson, himself playing for the first time this season. Dunphy talked about how their practice stats showed Morgan with the most deflections. Sometimes that stat can be misleading if it means a defender is cheating into passing lines while not covering his man. But the 6-foot-5 Morgan stayed close to Anderson.

"I thought he lost Anderson a couple of times," Dunphy said. "We talked about that. But he's got great speed and quickness. He's got great length. He's got good anticipation. I'm expecting him to be really a good defender."

Despite his quick offensive explosion, Coleman said he had been anxious getting out there. When their dual news conference was over, the two new guys, Morgan and Coleman, walked out and then shook hands. When they'd gone to the bench at the end, Morgan's sister had called out loud enough for the whole gym to hear, "Welcome home, Jesse."

As the pair walked up to the locker room door, a Temple guy asked them: "You guys have fun?"

"Yeah, man," Morgan said, then he added the words he didn't say in the news conference. "It's been a long time."