Temple junior Obi Enechionyia couldn't have worn a more frustrated look when his team headed to the locker at the Liacouras Center at the end of the first half Saturday against Penn.
The 6-foot-10 forward, who entered the game averaging 21 points and tied his career high of 26 in Wednesday's win over St. Joseph's, had good reason. He was 0 for 9 from the floor and had seen Penn cut a 17-point deficit to nine after the first 20 minutes.
Enechionyia had open threes. He made a nice move to shake a defender, but missed a close bank shot. Two layups were blown by him and another was blocked. Penn also did a nice job of using its smaller lineup to hound him through screens and keep him out of the lane.
But that sort of sums up why Temple has been playing so well in the early part of the season. The Owls are too young to realize when something isn't going well. They just continue to play through it and find contributions from others.
Call it youthful ignorance.
Freshman Alani Moore scored 12 points, including three big three-pointers in the first half, while also dealing seven assists, and sophomore Ernest Aflakpui totaled 11 points and 11 rebounds to help overcome the slow start by their leading scorer en route to a 70-62 win.
Enechionyia finished with 11 points and five blocks, while sophomore Shizz Alston led the Owls with 14 as they won their fifth consecutive game to improve to 6-2 and remain perfect in the Big Five at 3-0.
"We just still wanted to try and get him shots, get him going," Moore said. "We just wanted to let the offense flow and get good shots. Now, we've just got to be smarter and tougher. Smarter and tougher than everybody else."
Penn did its best to mask the struggles of Enechionyia by missing its first five shots, to go with two turnovers, before a layup by A.J. Brodeur broke the scoring with 14 minutes, 28 seconds to go in the first half. Really, the Quakers were lucky to be down only 11-2.
Typical of a Big 5 game, however, coach Steve Donohue's team not only refused to fold, it almost pulled off an amazing comeback. Getting 19 points from Matt Howard, 17 from Brodeur, and a strong second-half contribution off the bench from Jake Silpe (five points, four assists, three steals), the Quakers (2-4, 0-2 Big Five) cut the lead to 64-62 with 1:15 to go on a Brodeur layup from a nice pass by Silpe.
But the Owls calmly iced it with the help of a nice reverse layup from Quinton Rose, two free throws from Alston, and a dunk from Enechionyia.
"I thought some guys really stepped in and Alani Moore was very good on the offensive end throughout," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "We were a little bit selfish in the first half. Everybody was. Because they are so well- coached and they had their wits about them, they gave us everything we could handle. Obi wasn't the Obi we've been used to, but I don't want to play without him."