FOR COACH Fran Dunphy and the Temple Owls, it's not as much about how you start but how you finish.
Entering last night's home game with Saint Joseph's, the Owls (4-3) were hoping to get revenge after their one-point loss to the Hawks in February. Temple's response was a late second-half surge to beat their Big 5 rival, 77-69.
"We did a real good job down the stretch today," Dunphy said. "There's no doubt about it: We are still a work in progress and we need to continue to understand what it's going to take."
Trailing by three with 28 seconds left, the Hawks (4-3) fouled Temple's Anthony Lee, sending him to the line. After making his first of two shots, Lee was short on his second but grabbed his own rebound before being fouled once again.
"I just followed my rebound," Lee said. "I was working on it [Tuesday] night in the gym, so I just read it and I'm glad I timed it right. I saw it hit off the rim and I just went and grabbed it."
"Oftentimes those things don't get counted because they'll say you went over the line," Dunphy said, "but I thought he had enough sense and I thought he waited long enough for the sea to open for him to grab the rebound."
Lee sank both free throws in his second trip to the line in 12 seconds, putting a dagger in the Hawks' attempt at a comeback with 26 seconds left. The Temple center finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
After beginning 1-for-11 from the field, the Owls finished the first half with a 39-34 lead. Hawks coach Phil Martelli said Temple's slow start was an opportunity for his team to take charge early, but his squad was unable to convert on the opportunity.
"I think the beginning of the game was hard because there was a lot of squeezing in it," Martelli said. "Guys were trying to win the game in the first 2 minutes."
SJU was led by guard Langston Galloway's 24 points. Ronald Roberts, who has been a bother for Temple throughout his 4-year career, added 11 first-half points and finished with 13.
"I'm not leaving here worried about offense," Martelli said. "We had 65 shots. I'm worried about the turnovers and some of our decisions, but not the offense."
For the Owls, the slow start may have been due to not playing since Nov. 24. Guard Will Cummings, who scored 16 points, said the Owls needed to come back better prepared.
"It's just the game of basketball," he said. "I mean, they had their runs and we have to make sure we come prepared and make sure we are in the right position because that allowed them to score buckets. We weren't really focused on being in the right spot or helping covering for teammates, so I think that was the reason for their quick start and our slow start."
The lengthy break is something Dunphy said the Owls will have to adjust to, as the team will host Texas at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday, followed by a 10-day break before hosting Texas Southern on Dec. 18.
"We were concerned about the 9 days off because we played three games in 6 days and three games in 4 days, then we're off for almost 10 days," Dunphy said. "I mean, we're going to do something similar when we play Saturday then we're off again. There's not much you can do about it."
On Twitter: @JohnMurrow12