ALL OF LAST YEAR, Jesse Morgan waited. The transfer from UMass sat idle as Temple suffered through a 9-22 season - the program's most losses ever - hoping for a chance to contribute in his native Philadelphia after spending three seasons with the Minutemen.
The Olney High graduate scored a career-high 20 points yesterday in the Owls' 90-77 victory over George Washington (22-13) in a second-round NIT game at the Liacouras Center.
"It's good, man, to get back home in Philly and play in front of all of your friends and family, play with some terrific guys like Jaylen [Bond] and Devin Coleman," Morgan said. "It's just a tremendous feeling to be out here and playing again after sitting out for so long."
"Just wonderful to see," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said about Morgan's play. "He came out and he obviously knocked some shots down, which is great."
For someone who has played only 25 games in a Temple uniform, Morgan has made an impact in Dunphy's eyes.
"I hoped he's enjoyed his Temple experience. I think Temple has been good for him," Dunphy said. "I think he's given us what he's needed to give to us in terms of his academic career. He graduated. He's been a good citizen and someone that people like because he's an engaging sort.
"It also helps that he knocks out a bunch of threes," Dunphy joked.
Morgan pushed the Owls to a hot start, nailing two threes and a pair of free throws during a 20-7 run in the game's first 5 1/2 minutes. By halftime, the Owls were up by 38-30 and Morgan had 15 points after entering the game with an 11.6-point average.
While Morgan was Temple's go-to scorer in those first 20 minutes, Dunphy and the Owls leaned on Coleman - a junior guard who spent his first two collegiate seasons at Clemson - in the second half, when he scored all 13 of his points.
Coleman's outburst, however, came at the expense of Morgan's minutes. "Jesse had a pretty good offensive game going and then Devin jumped in there," Dunphy said. "I think Jesse is as happy for Devin as he was for himself. That was a pretty impressive performance there."
Morgan indicated that he was happy with Dunphy's decision to go to Coleman, too. "Coach did a good job of getting guys in and out," he said. "Guys finished out and closed the game and we won."
Morgan then referred to Coleman as "the microwave" due to the way he "sparked it up" in the second half.
While Coleman isn't focused on next season and beyond and maintains that his contributions are just to keep seniors like Morgan and leading scorer Will Cummings (team-high 21 points) playing basketball for as long as possible, Dunphy is still pleased with what Coleman means to Temple going forward.
"Devin has an important role for us and when he's in there and making the shots and making the plays he made today, obviously he's going to get some well-earned minutes," Dunphy said. "For the future and for next year, he's going to be a guy that's counted on greatly."
The Owls (25-10) will host the winner of tonight's matchup between Louisiana Tech and Texas A & M on Wednesday, with a semifinal spot at Madison Square Garden at stake. For Morgan and Cummings, the thought that they're reaching the end of their Temple careers isn't lost on them.
"We want to be the last team playing," Morgan said.
"I'm just trying to keep playing basketball," Cummings added. "So anything that it takes to keep playing basketball, that's what I'm really focused on doing."