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.