Jan 7, 2012, 6:42 PM EDT
Three days after downing the No. 3 Duke Blue Devils, the Temple Owls didn’t suffer a letdown so much as they were just outplayed.
Their 87-77 loss to the Dayton Flyers on Saturday afternoon puts an end to the program’s 25-game-home-unbeaten streak at the Liacouras Center and starts the Owls (10-4) off to a 0-1 start in conference play. Dayton, meanwhile, moves to a record of 12-4 on the season and 2-0 in the Atlantic 10.
Though the Owls led for much of the contest, and the majority of the second half, they failed to ever distance than themselves from a clearly determined Dayton team. They would pay for it.
“We had two stretches, one in the first half and one in the second, where we put a little bit of space between us and them,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “In the first half we went up eight, and I put our starters back in, and
we did a poor job from that point on.”
The poor job the coach referenced was Temple’s failure to score a field goal in the final 4:45 of the first half, allowing Dayton to storm back on a 9-1 run and knot the game 31-31 at the break.
“And then in the second half,” Dunphy continued, “We go up six, I think, and we get the intentional foul and got nothing out of it,” after Temple guard Ramone Moore was unable to convert on either of his two foul shots.
Moore’s missed opportunity to put his team up eight capped off a stretch where Temple strung together a run of five-straight baskets worth 15 points, yet never mounted a lead larger than six.
“Those two stretches I think are really what cost us,” Dunphy said. “That and Dayton playing really well and making shots. You have to give Dayton a tremendous amount of credit. I thought they played really good today.”
Too many of those Dayton shots would fall shortly after Moore’s misses from the line, when the Owls found themselves on the wrong side of a 16-2 Dayton run that would ultimately cost them the game.
Temple guard Juan Fernandez described it like this: “We were up eight in the first half and let them come back. We were six in the second half and let them come back. And once they got that stretch, they were up five and we couldn’t come back.
“We just didn’t know how to stop that run.”
Save for their win over Duke, the undermanned and undersized Owls have struggled on defense as of late. The 87 points they surrendered to Dayton on Saturday were the most they have allowed to any team since an 88-77 loss at Xavier on January 22 of last year. Five Flyer scorers ended up in double figures with reserve guard Josh Parker posting a game high 16.
By contrast, Temple was notable for its lack of scoring depth. While Temple’s big three of Fernandez, Moore and Khalif Wyatt registered 60 of Temple’s total 77—with Wyatt notching a career-high 28—no other Owl scored more than six.
Now, with their schedule about to move the them away from their typically friendly home confines, things don’t figure to get any easier for the Owls any time soon. Temple’s next two matchups will see them on the road against a St. Louis team expected to compete for the Atlantic 10 title and at Richmond, where the Owls have had their share of struggles in recent years.
Just as the they needed to move on from their win over Duke, Temple will need to do the same after Saturday’s loss to Dayton if they expect to retain their spot atop a highly competitive Atlantic 10 conference, a fact the team and its coach appear to know well.
“The league is great,” Dunphy said of the A10. “I mean, we going to be in a dogfight every single game. And that will make this league terrific this year. You’re going to have to be on your game each and every game.
“[Today] makes a statement. I think it makes a statement about the Atlantic 10 and how tough it is, and how tough, down the stretch, it is going to be. If you get to 11-5 and even 10-6 this year in this league and you’re going to have a very good season.”
“Once the game is over, no matter how big it is, either a win or a loss, the season keeps going,” Fernandez said before going on to echo his coach. “[Dayton] is a good team. The Atlantic 10 is a strong league. Now it’s going to be tough going at St. Louis, at Richmond. You can’t relax.
“We don’t have anything guaranteed to us because we beat Duke, and we have to come out and play every game. Today was a loss. Okay, well now we have to move on just like we have to move on after a win.”
Temple will have a chance to do just that when it meets the (12-3, 0-1) St. Louis Billikens next Wednesday at 9 p.m.
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