The Temple men's basketball team was playing with fire the early part of the season. Despite…
The Temple men's basketball team improved to 8-1 with a 63-46 victory over Alcorn State in its opening game of the Gotham Classic – a uniquely formatted tournament in which the Owls play three home games against mid-major schools and a neutral site game against Syracuse Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
Dunphy admitted the Owls haven't had much of a rhythm this season outside of the second half against Villanova. Temple has been able to continue to pile up victories because most of the early-season opposition has been less than stellar.
"We were not great on offense, turned it over 15 times, didn't shoot it particularly great (40 percent)," said Dunphy of Monday's effort. "We just haven't found a great rhythm to our game. We haven't found the way we need to play in order to win basketball games on a consistent basis.
"The record beats the alternative, but I wish I could sit back in my office and say we're really clicking. We're not. We haven't done that yet except for the second half against Villanova."
The Braves brought a 2-7 record into Monday night's contest. Take away No. 1 ranked Duke – which handed the Owls their only loss – and Villanova, and the other seven teams Temple has played have a combined record of 24-46.
So it's fair to ask whether the Owls' 8-1 record is a bit of mirage or a true indicator of their talent. They'll find out a little more this week after hosting 7-2 Canisius on Wednesday and then taking on the No. 3 Orangemen (10-0).
"As a basketball club, things happen, and we had some slips as we've tended to do," said senior Scootie Randall, who scored 11 points. "That team took advantage of it. They're not a horrible team. You just have to finish strong and keep playing.
"As leaders we have to set the tone earlier before the game starts and make sure everybody is focused and ready to go. We're still winning, but we still have a lot of work to do."
Dunphy admitted he preferred a strong three-game, four-day neutral-site tournament early in the season to the current Gotham Classic setup.
"It's nice to go away sometimes, because you bond and you spend a lot of time together," said Dunphy. "I think there's a good part to that. We won't do it much in this tournament. But yeah, I like the tournament setting where you play three games in a short period of time where everybody is together."
Temple took a slim 28-26 lead into the half, but slowly pulled away. The Owls placed four players in double figures, topped by Khalif Wyatt, who scored 20 and went over 1,000 points for his career.
"It's been a long process," said Wyatt. "The accomplishment means a lot to me, and I just want to thank everybody who helped me get it.
"I haven't been shooting the ball real well (recently), but the only thing to do to get out of a shooting slump is to keep shooting. I took some good shots, got my teammates involved and we won and that's all that really matters."
Starting center Anthony Lee missed the game with an illness, but Jake O'Brien did a solid job filling in, scoring 10 points, grabbing four rebounds and totaling three blocked shots and three steals. Freshman Davontae Watson came off the bench to score four points, grab four rebounds and block three shots in six minutes.
"Jake did some good things and other times (he) needs to do better," said Dunphy. "Davontae did some really good things, he's going to be hard to score against. Some things he did really well and other times he got himself caught out of position."
Dunphy felt there was a good chance Lee would be back on Wednesday when the schedule starts to pick up, but said that decision would be left up to the medical staff.
Scootie Randall/Khalif Wyatt:
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