NEWARK, Del. - A week before Christmas, Temple's offense, specifically its long-range shooting, was in desperate need of gifts. They got two Philly guys and they came out firing.
Shooting guard Jesse Morgan, playing his first game in nearly 2 years after tearing an ACL in January 2013 while playing for Massachusetts, started in place of big man Devontae Watson and was not going to be cheated. He launched five shots in his first 7 minutes on the court. Morgan (Olney High) was going to shoot his way back to top form.
When Morgan went out after 9 minutes, fellow transfer Devin Coleman (Clemson, Friends' Central) took his place. He came out hitting, nailing a three from the left corner 30 seconds after taking the court and then, 30 seconds later, another trey from the top of the key. He got up a heat-check third shot 30 seconds after that. It missed, but the point had been made. Temple was different and better, way better. Shame all of its Big 5 games are in the rearview.
The Owls, who had been shooting 26 percent from the arc and making just 4.5 threes per game, had more threes (eight) by halftime than they had in any of their first 10 games. Coleman's entrance triggered an offensive explosion. The game was competitive when he entered, non-competitive a few minutes later. The Owls led by 16 at the break, 25 in the second half and cruised home, 82-62, at the Bob Carpenter Center.
"I was just happy to be out there, pretty anxious," Morgan said.
Delaware, which finally got the return of the only two contributors left from last season's 25-win team, has not won a game in eight tries. Shooter Kyle Anderson (broken right hand) got his first court time of the season. Marvin King-Davis (hamstring) had not played since getting hurt in the opener.
Delaware's guys had been waiting a month, but had not been practicing. Temple's guys had been waiting a year (Coleman) and 2 years (Morgan) but, at least, had been practicing. They were eager and they were good, really good. And they had help.
Owls coach Fran Dunphy used 10 players in the first half. The Owls (7-4) were 8-for-15 from the arc in the first and 16-for-33 for the game. Eight different players made threes. Seven of the 16 came from the newest guys.
"It's nice when guys are making shots from the three-point line," Dunphy said. "We're a get-to-the-foul-line kind of team. We didn't get there very much tonight [eight attempts]."
Sixteen threes change the math. It was 48-18 from the arc for the game.
Senior point guard Will Cummings, now surrounded by shooters, had 11 points, 10 assists and zero turnovers. Morgan (16 points on 16 shots) and Coleman (nine points) combined for 25 points, five points better than the margin. Quenton DeCosey was very efficient, scoring 16 points on just seven shots.
"Those numbers are great, 10 assists, no turns, that's pretty special," Dunphy said of his point guard. "When you're kicking it to Devin Coleman or Jesse Morgan . . . "
Coleman was thrilled to be home and playing.
"There was really nowhere else than I wanted to be," said Coleman when asked about the decision to come to Temple a year ago. "Philadelphia is home for me. Obviously, I knew Jaylen [Bond] and Jesse."
Temple had been averaging 62.4 points and just 10.7 assists. The Owls got 19 assists against Delaware and had their scoring average beaten with 11 minutes left in the game. The game just looked easier for Temple.
The decision to start Morgan?
"He hadn't played in a couple of years and I wanted to just get him out there as quickly as possible, more that than anything else," Dunphy said. "It's a pretty neat story when you delve into it, what he has accomplished, graduating, he's been really good for us, he's been a good teammate to these guys. Very proud of him."
Anderson led Delaware with 20 points, including four threes. He was outnumbered.
"It is an absolute pleasure to play against Temple and a Fran Dunphy-coached team just because they stand and he stands for everything that is right about college basketball," Delaware coach Monte Ross said. "And then you put on top of that he can coach the horns off a bull . . . "
The key to the game?
"[Dunphy] just easing Jesse Morgan back into things," Ross said with a smile. "Not throwing him right into the fire. Both those kids were a handful."
Ross saw the Temple three-point numbers and played against them. It was a good bet, a bad result with those 16 killer threes.
This was just one game against a winless team, but it was a nice re-start for a Temple team that gets Kansas Monday at the Wells Fargo Center and should absolutely be a factor in the American Conference which begins New Year's Eve at defending national champion Connecticut.