By CHASE SENIOR
TOWSON, Md. — It continues to be the main problem for Temple through its first three games.
For the most part, the Owls have been able to control the pace for about 30 minutes, but then falter in the games most critical stages.
Thus was the case on Thursday night, as the Owls squandered a lead midway through the second half.
“We’re just not tough enough yet,” coach Fran Dunphy said after the defeat. “We’re gaining on that. I thought we did some decent things again tonight. I’m not overly disappointed in where we find ourselves. I think I’m encouraged where we find ourselves. Now the disappointment jumps in there with holding that lead. But you can’t turn the ball over for easy baskets. We did that twice and we don’t get a chance to defend them at the other end,” he added.
Coming into the season that was the main concern surrounding this ball club. With five seniors gone, who would step up and how long would it take this team, that has not played much together, to gel on the hardwood?
“We’re growing as a unit, just we have to work harder in practice and make sure we’re prepared to put teams away in the second half because I know we struggled with that in the past three games that we played,” junior point guard Will Cummings said. “We were up on Penn, up on Kent State, up on this game right here, so we gotta learn to put teams away.”
The Owls have looked good for some stretches in every contest, but when the crowd got jumpy and every shot became that much more important, Temple struggled to find a rhythm on both ends of the court and Towson stormed back to move the Owls to 1-2 on the season.
“We panicked a little bit. I don’t know that were ready yet to win this game on the road against this particular group, who is very well coached and got some senior leadership,” Dunphy said.
The Tigers return four of five starters and 85 percent of the offense from a season ago, but the Owls on the other hand lost over 70 percent of their scoring production from a year ago and bolster three fresh faces in the starting lineup.
Temple’s inexperience was evident on Thursday night, whereas Towson’s vast experience paid large dividends when the Tigers had their backs against the wall.
Led by junior forward Anthony Lee, who finished with 20 points and nine rebounds and Cummings’ 18 points, five assists and five rebounds performance, Temple led by seven points with 9:18 to go in the game.
From that point on, though, Towson hacked away at the lead and capitalized off of Temple’s miscues. The Owls turned the rock over 16 times compared to Towson’s seven.
A few of those turnovers came when Temple was desperate for points and in need of silencing the crowd inside the lavish new Secu Arena.
“I think we was missing shots and also I just think that we went away from going back inside a little bit,” Lee said, after a very impressive performance in front of some friends and family. (He is from Columbia, Maryland.) “We tried to do the best that we could. We was just missing shots from the outside, so that’s pretty much what happened and we kind of made some critical turnovers,” the junior forward added.
“We just got to tighten or things up a little bit more and take better shots,” Dunphy said. “We’re still a work in progress I would say,” he added.
Towson was led by honorable mention AP All American and reigning CAA Player of the Year, Jerrelle Benimon. Benimon scored a career high 32 points and pulled down ten rebounds.
“I think he’s got a really good chance to be in the league next year, because he’s got good energy, he’s got a good enthusiasm, he finishes at the rim,” Dunphy said when asked about Towson’s prolific big man. “He’s now shooting foul shots, 10-12 is pretty good. He knows how to get there. He stepped away from the basket and made a long two, but I think now, he’ll get to be playing in the league because he can make jump shots,” he added.
“It is tough, Lee said when questioned about having to guard such an athletic forward. ” Everything wa going through him. Whens he’s always getting the isolation play, you kind of just have to be prepared for what he’s trying to do,” he added.
Temple will have the next week off, before traveling to South Carolina for the Charleston Classic, which gets underway next Thursday. The Owl will face Clemson in the first game of the tournament.