Temple Erratic, But Effective in Home Opening Win over Central Michigan

Temple Erratic, But Effective in Home Opening Win over Central Michigan

It wasn't exactly your typical Temple basketball game. Though, without Michael Eric and Scootie Randall, basketball atypical of the program might quickly become the norm. And, really, if it continues to result in wins and more than 80 points scored, it won't be such a bad change of pace.

The Temple Owls were erratic for parts of their 86-74 home opening win over Central Michigan, but started and finished strong enough to make sure the outcome was never in doubt. The win is their first of the year at the Liacouras Center and their 23rd straight at home, a new building record.

Khalif Wyatt led all scorers with a game-high 23 points, while Aaron Brown posted a career-high 21.

For Brown, who Temple will need to step up just as he did today in the absence of Eric and Randall, Saturday afternoon was a welcome change from the spot minutes he's played throughout the early portion of his college career. "It felt good to be out there and knock down the first couple shots," said Brown. "I was feeling good, so I just kept shooting."

Hitting those opening shots put Brown in a rhythm that would see the sophomore score 11-straight for the Owls, finish 7-11 from the floor and 4-7 from three. Temple coach Fran Dunphy has said that for Brown to be successful, he needs to shoot well from behind the arc and play great defense. Today, he did both, and received plaudits for his performance.

"He's arguably our hardest working player," said Dunphy. "I didn't think he had played great yet [for us]. Today, he played great…This was his best game by far…I think everything he did was pretty much on target."

As a team, Temple opened up on fire, starting 6-9 from three and jumping out to a 24-point lead on the back of an 18-2 run.

But that lead would begin to slip toward the end of the first half, as their shooting went cold. Temple would make just two of its next eight attempts from behind the arc, and allow Central Michigan to cut their deficit to just eight thanks to an 18-2 run of their own. It was at this point in the early stages second that the typically-reserved Dunphy expressed his displeasure with how his Owls had begun to let up.

"He pretty much just told us that we were playing like…explicit explicit, and that we had to turn it up," Wyatt explained. "They made their run and we held them off and were able to hold on."

"[I said] the same thing you would have said had you been in my position," said Dunphy to the amusement of those gathered for his post-game press conference. "For a stretch there, we took a step back and said 'we have a sizable lead and we don't have to work that hard.' I can guarantee you that was the attitude. And so we spoke of attitude at that point."

Though the Chippewas would continue to battle, Temple began filling up the basket once more and locking down just a bit better on defense. By the end, five different Owls—Wyatt, Brown, Ramone Moore, Rhalir Hollis-Jefferson and Juan Fernandez—would finish in double figures.

Still, for their coach to be totally happy, the team will need to improve its play at its own end. Just as it was a rare sight to see the Owls post more than 50 by the middle mark, it was equally rare to see some of their alarming defensive lapses, especially during the Central Michigan comeback. Two Chippewas—Andre Coimbra and Trey Zeigler—would finish with a team-high 22 points, while point guard Austin McBroom chipped in with another 15.

"I'll wait to see the film to see how we were defensively, but, at first thought, I don't think we were nearly good enough," said Dunphy. "We have to cover for one another, and I don't think we did as a good a job of as I would have liked."

The Owls will have a few days to make all the adjustments they need before they head out on the road this Wednesday night to take on the Toledo Rockets. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and can be heard on 1210 AM.

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Being immersed in the team is important for Nerlens Noel, and so is continuing his rehab. 

While the Sixers are on the road for three days to play the Grizzlies and Pelicans, Noel will remain in Philadelphia to work out at the training complex in Camden, New Jersey. The team is not scheduled to practice in between games, so staying back allows Noel another day to get on the court.

“[I want him to] just start playing more and have a ball in his hands, get hit, physical, feel people, play one-on-one,” head coach Brett Brown said.

Noel has yet to play this season because of elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October. He rejoined the Sixers after completing the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Alabama. There still is no timetable for his return. 

Brown has said there is a “classroom” element to Noel’s return. He has to learn a roster with new players and schemes. 

The on-the-court side of it is a reacclimation to the intensity of the league. Regardless of how many games Noel already has played in the NBA, there is an adjustment period getting back into the grind of the competition. Brown believes the time in the gym this week will help Noel prepare for the level of intensity he will face in his return. 

“It’s such fool’s gold to think somebody’s going to jump back into NBA basketball after you haven’t played for so long. I don’t care how athletic he is,” Brown said. “It’s a man’s world, this league, and there’s a physicality and there’s a real-time reaction you have to have to play in the game. You can’t make that up in practice, you can’t make that up playing one-on-one, but you can better position him instead of just going out to get shots. I want him to feel a body, get hit, hit back, play one-on-one, those types of things.”

Noel had been assigned to the Sixers’ Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, to get in practice time when the Sixers had a game. The Sixers may forego another assignment and keep Noel at their facility as the Sevens also have two games in the next three days. 

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid has been making the NBA look easy. Rookie of the Month honors, five double-doubles in 13 games, seven performances of 20 points or more … all having missed the last two years rehabbing from foot injuries.

Embiid, though, still is a player learning the league. Night’s like Monday’s lackluster showing are going to happen, even if it seemed unexpected against the struggling Denver Nuggets. 

“We’ve been used to seeing Jo have superhuman nights,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ 106-98 loss (see Instant Replay). “I thought Joel was down tonight.” 

Embiid tallied a total 16 points (5 for 15 from the field, 1 for 3 from three, 5 for 6 from the line) with four rebounds, one assist, a career-high five blocks, three turnovers and three fouls in 25:32. 

He had a quiet first half with six points (2 for 5 from the field) and one rebound in 9:21. The biggest struggle came in the third quarter. Embiid scored a single point off a free throw and shot 0 for 6 from the floor. By the end of three, he was shooting 18.2 percent. 

The big man said he needed to be better at passing out of the double team. He committed two turnovers in the third. 

“I wasn’t getting to my spot and I wasn’t getting what I’m used to getting,” Embiid said of the first three quarters. “I’m going to go back and watch the tape and see what I did wrong.” 

Embiid bounced back for another Embiid-like offensive effort in the fourth. He dropped nine points off an efficient 3 for 4 shooting in 7:31. Still, it wasn’t enough. 

“I made a couple shots,” Embiid said. “It didn’t help us win, so I don’t think it matters.”

Brown noticed Embiid rushing his game. He also thought Embiid’s balance was off, something the big man has been dealing with all season as he continues to find his legs. 

Embiid will not play in Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. It is part of his workload management in which he does not play both games of a back-to-back. Expect him to hone in on game film until his next matchup, and get back on the roller coaster that can be a first year in the NBA. 

“It's just part of a young man's growth,” Brown said. “It just happens. I don't think we need to read too deeply into it. I think, in many ways, to expect from time to time not as good of a performance as we have been used to is fair enough.”