Temple topples Towson, reaches .500
Dionte Christmas led the Owls with 16 points as they got even for the first time this season.
No streamers and balloons came down from the rafters of the Liacouras Center last night, but the Temple Owls reached the .500 plateau for the first time this season.
With 25th-ranked Villanova showing up on Sunday, the Owls realize they will have to lift their game several more notches - but Towson was visiting last night, and Temple controlled things most of the way for a 69-46 victory.
As soon as the game was over and Temple had improved to 4-4, Owls guard Mark Tyndale said he planned to watch 'Nova, which was about to tip off against Louisiana State.
"They've got a streak going in the Big Five," Tyndale said, referring to 'Nova's 12-game skein, which ties a city series record. "We're trying to break that streak."
Towson needed a three-pointer with six seconds left to keep from being the poorest-shooting Owls opponent in the 99-game history of the Liacouras Center. The 3-5 Tigers shot just 23.2 percent. Only Cleveland State shot worse, in the 2000-01 season. Towson's point total was the lowest for an Owls opponent since a 74-45 victory over Rhode Island on March 8, 2006, in John Chaney's last season as coach.
"Is some of that us? I hope so," Owls coach Fran Dunphy said of Towson's offensive struggles. "I'd like to think we're getting better defensively, but we're going to have to do a lot more work."
Tyndale and fellow guard Dionte Christmas controlled the defensive glass, with Tyndale grabbing 14 rebounds and Christmas 11. Dunphy pointed to the deficiencies of his big men, Lavoy Allen and Sergio Olmos.
"Lavoy, Serge and myself all had the same amount of defensive rebounds," Dunphy said. "I'm being a wise guy there, but as I look at the film, if they did a great job of checking out to let the other two guys get a lot of defensive rebounds, then I'll excuse that."
Christmas led four double-digit Owls scorers with 16 points, while Allen tied a career high with 14 points, earning praise from his coach for the "economy" of his play. Allen made 6 of 7 shots.
The Owls shot 51.1 percent from the field, making 24 of 47 shots, although they had just seven assists. Asked if that was a meaningful statistic, Dunphy said: "That's not a great way to play basketball, but the nature of the game, as choppy as it was . . . there was one play where Tyndale had the ball on the baseline and went up and dunked it by himself. There was no assist on the play, but you're not going to tell him not to make it."
Dunphy also brought up a coast-to-coast layup by Tyndale after one of his rebounds.
"If he's going to have defensive rebounds, he's a guy who can push the ball and get an easy basket for us," he said.
Midway through the second half, ahead by 40-22, Temple suddenly struggled against a trapping 1-3-1 zone defense. Some misguided passes led to Towson fastbreaks and the Tigers scored the next seven points. For the game, Temple had 17 turnovers, with guards Luis Guzman and Chris Clark combining for nine of them. "That can't happen," Dunphy said.
It wasn't a night when any of it mattered, but everybody also understood that the Liacouras Center's 100th game would be the test, not No. 99.