Temple Owls

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 25:  Shizz Alston Jr. #3 and Mark Williams #10 celebrate with Obi Enechionyia #0 of the Temple Owls after he was named All-Tournament Most Valuable Player during the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Barclays Center on November 25, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Baylor and Obi Enechionyia of Temple offer stand out performances

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Obi Enechionyia, Temple

Enechionyia led Temple to a pair of massive wins over ranked teams this week, as the Owls left New York with the Preseason NIT title. Against No. 25 Florida State in the semifinals, Enechionyia finished with 16 points, eight boards and six blocks and followed that up with 22 points, 12 boards and five blocks in a win over No. 19 West Virginia.

What made those performances even more impressive and important was the fact that the Owls had entered the tournament with two ugly losses already on their résumé. It’s never too early to start thinking about what needs to get done to win an at-large bid, and with the American looking like it won’t be stockpiled with quality wins and a loss to New Hampshire already hanging over their head, this was something Temple desperately needed.

They were good, too

  • Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina: The Gamecocks sure were impressive this week, beating No. 25 Michigan and No. 18 Syracuse. Thornwell was the guy that led the way, averaging 18.5 points, 8.0 boards and 4.0 assists.
  • Johnathan Motley, Baylor: Motley was the best player on the floor for the Bears in their run to the Battle 4 Atlantis title. His best performance came against No. 24 Michigan State, when he had 26 points and 12 boards.
  • Joel Berry II, North Carolina: Berry outplayed Jawun Evans in a blowout win over Oklahoma State then put 22 points, three assists and three boards up on No. 16 Wisconsin.
  • Bryson Scott, Fort Wayne: Scott, native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, that started his career at Purdue, had 18 points, 12 boards, three assists and three steals as the Mastadons beat Indiana in Fort Wayne. That’s a good day.
  • Matt Farrell, Notre Dame: Farrell averaged 19.0 points and 6.0 assists as the Irish dispatched Northwestern and Colorado en route to the Legends Classic title.
PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Johnathan Motley #5 of the Baylor Bears looks on in the second half against the Yale Bulldogs during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Johnathan Motley (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Baylor Bears

The Bears entered the season as a team that no one was paying attention to and have since gone on to be arguably the most impressive team in the sport to date. After their performance winning the Battle 4 Atlantis, if the NCAA tournament were to start today, Baylor would be the No. 1 overall seed. That’s mostly because they’ve played a lot of good teams already and other teams haven’t yet, but to date, this is who Baylor has beaten: No. 13 Oregon, VCU, No. 24 Michigan State and No. 10 Louisville, the latter of which came after the Cardinals built a 22-point lead in the first half.

And here’s the best part: Scott Drew is doing all of this with a team full of over-achievers. Remember all that talk about how Drew couldn’t coach and all he could do was recruit? Well, this team is mostly made up of three-star prospects with a few four-star guys sprinkled in.

They were good, too

  • Gonzaga: The Zags won the Advocare Invitational and picked up wins over No. 21 Iowa State and Miami to make it happen.
  • Fort Wayne: How about the Mastadons, who knocked off No. 3 Indiana in Fort Wayne!
  • Butler: The Bulldogs landed an upset of their own this week, as they picked off No. 8 Arizona to win a tournament in Las Vegas.
  • UCLA: The Bruins finally faced a test and passed with flying colors, taking home the Wooden Legacy title.
  • Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish went 3-0 this week, which included the Legends Classic title.

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FIVE HOT #TAEKS FROM THE WEEK

1. North Carolina deserves to be mentioned with the best teams in the country: The Tar Heels improved to 7-0 on the season with four wins in Hawai’i this week, including a 15-point win over No. 16 Wisconsin in the Maui Invitational title game. Much was made of the departure of Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson this offseason, and while the Tar Heels found themselves in the national title game less than eight months ago, it’s not a stretch to say that this team has played as well as – if not better – than last year’s team did.

Joel Berry II has looked like North Carolina’s next great point guard. Justin Jackson is playing well on the wing while Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks and Tony Bradley have combined to average 39.0 points and 22.4 boards between them. The Tar Heels are hitting 39.2 percent from three. They’ve hit for 100 points twice, cracked 90 in three other games and have, just once, scored less than 83 points. That came in the Maui title game against the notoriously-slow Badgers.

“UNC is just too big and too fast,” said a coach who has scouted the Tar Heels. “They just kill you on the break and score in bunches.”

2. Melo Trimble is college basketball’s best closer: When Melo was a freshman, he developed a reputation for being a guy that always, always, always made the big shot or the big play in the critical moment. That’s why Maryland, who was not all that talented that year, was able to finish with a better seed in the NCAA tournament than the last year’s team, which was a preseason favorite to win the title.

It looks like this year is going to be a repeat of his freshman season. The Terps moved to 7-0 on the season with a 69-68 win over Kansas State on Saturday night. Five of those seven wins have come by single digits, and Trimble has made critical plays down the stretch in all five. On Saturday, he scored eight of Maryland’s last ten points, including two layups in the last 20 seconds to erase a three-point deficit. Against Richmond, he had nine points in the last 1:30 and overtime. Against Georgetown, he had 11 points in the last 3:31, including four points in the final 11 seconds. And against Towson, he had 12 points and two assists in the final ten minutes, as Maryland erased 13-point deficit.

In the wins over Towson, Georgetown and Kansas State, Trimble scored the winning points in the final minute.

Three game-winners in three weeks is pretty good.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 26:  Melo Trimble #2 of the Maryland Terrapins celebrates after hitting the game winning shot as they defeated the Kansas State Wildcats 69-68 during the championship game of the Barclays Center Classic at Barclays Center on November 26, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Melo Trimble (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

3. Is this Virginia’s best defensive team?: We’ve long known that Tony Bennett’s teams are great on the defensive end of the floor, but has he ever had a team that has been defending this well? Through six games, they’ve yet to give up more than 52 points. Their opponents are averaging just 41.3 points and shooting just 31.7 percent from the floor, and that includes games against Iowa – who mustered just 41 points against the ‘Hoos – and Providence. Yale, who scored 98 points in a win at Washington, scored 38 points at Virginia.

“Best defense I have ever seen,” said a coach that played against UVA this season. “They are like boa constrictor, just make you work so damn hard for everything. They wear you out with their offense, too, so when you actually get an open shot, it doesn’t go in.”

Think about this stat for a second: In the 15 seasons that KenPom.com has been in existence, the lowest ever points-per-possession recorded by a defense had been 0.843 PPP, which was done by Stephen F. Austin in 2012. The record-low for a high-major team was 0.847 PPP by the 2015 Kentucky team that started out the year 38-0. Through six games this year, Virginia is allowing just 0.708 PPP.

4. Louisville isn’t winning much if they can’t figure out how to shoot: The Cardinals have one of the nation’s elite defenses this season, but that defense is only going to get them so far if they cannot find a way to score. Through five games, the Cardinals rank 287th in effective field goal percentage. They’re making just 32 percent of their threes and 65.2 percent of their free throws. The biggest culprits? Donovan Mitchell, Quentin Snider and Deng Adel. Snider and Adel are both shooting under 30 percent from the floor on the season; Mitchell is under 40 percent.

This team does everything else well. They don’t turn the ball over, they get to the offensive glass, they’re one of the nation’s best defensively, but until they can find a way to score consistently – and find a go-to guy – they’ll be very beatable once teams figure out how to beat their defense.

Just like Baylor did on Friday.

5. Deonte Burton showed his importance to Iowa State in Orlando: Burton averaged 25.0 points, 9.5 boards and 1.5 blocks in Iowa State’s 73-56 win over Miami and their 73-71 loss to No. 11 Gonzaga this week. The Cyclones have no size this season. The 6-foot-5 Burton is their starting power forward, and he spends time playing the five as well. If Iowa State is going to be as good as they expect to be this year, Burton is going to have to play the way that he did this week, taking advantage of mismatches against bigger defenders offensively while holding his own in the paint on the defensive end of the floor.

Burton was not great in the first two weeks of the season. When Iowa State looked their best this week, Burton was the best player on the floor. That’s not a coincidence.

SET YOUR DVR

No. 18 Syracuse at No. 16 Wisconsin, Tues. 7:00 p.m.
No. 24 Michigan State at No. 6 Duke, Tues. 9:30 p.m.
No. 17 Purdue at No. 10 Louisville, Weds. 7:15 p.m.
No. 4 North Carolina at No. 3 Indiana, Weds. 9:15 p.m.
No. 14 UCLA at No. 1 Kentucky, Sat. 12:30 p.m.
No. 19 West Virginia at No. 7 Virginia, Sat. 2:00 p.m.
No. 9 Xavier at No. 20 Baylor, Sat. 4:00 p.m.
No. 11 Gonzaga at No. 8 Arizona, Sat. 5:30 p.m.

Enechionyia lifts Temple over No. 19 West Virginia, 81-77

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 25:  Obi Enechionyia #0 of the Temple Owls drives to the basket on Brandon Watkins #20 of the West Virginia Mountaineers in the second half during the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Barclays Center on November 25, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) Obi Enechionyia had 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead Temple to an 81-77 upset of No. 19 West Virginia in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Friday.

Enechionyia scored 18 of his 22 in the first half for Temple (4-2), but it was his free throw with one second left that sealed the early season tournament championship. Alani Moore II added 18 points for the Owls, while Daniel Dingle had 15 and Quinton Rose 12.

Despite having four players finish in double-digit scoring, West Virginia (4-1) lost for the first time this season. Ahmad led the Mountaineers with 19 points, Teyvon Myers added 15, and Nathan Adrian and Tarik Phillip had 13 apiece.

The 71st meeting between the programs saw Temple enjoy a 45-25 advantage at halftime thanks to two extended stretches in which the Owls held the Mountaineers scoreless.

Following Phillip’s layup 1:29 into the game, West Virginia did not score for 5:28 until Adrian’s layup at 13:09. During that stretch, the Owls outscored the Mountaineers 13-0. Then, after Ahmad’s layup with 5:28 left in the half, Temple scored the next nine points until Phillip knocked down a 3 to cut the deficit to 38-23.

The Owls held West Virginia to 32.3 percent shooting from the field – including 27.3 percent from 3-point range – in the first half. Temple also forced West Virginia into 11 first-half turnovers.

Trailing by 20, West Virginia ratcheted up its trademark press defense in the second half. After Phillip drilled a 3 in front of the Mountaineers’ bench, causing Temple coach Fran Dunphy to call timeout with 11:31 left, West Virginia was credited with nine forced turnovers in 8 1/2 minutes.

The timeout did not stem West Virginia’s tide, as the Mountaineers scored 13 of the next 17 points to take a 65-64 lead. It was their first advantage since opening the game on a 7-0 run. An Ahmad layup pushed the advantage to 67-64.

But Temple would not go away.

The Owls took a 75-71 lead on the strength of an 11-4 run spanning 2:36. Moore made four free throws in the stretch, and Rose added two free throws and a jumper.

The final 4:44 saw Moore play a pivotal role. The 5-foot-10 guard grabbed three rebounds and made two free throws to set the stage for Enechionyia.

Enechionyia was named the Most Outstanding Player of the two-day tournament. He was selected for the All-Tournament team along with Dingle, Ahmad, Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon and Illinois’ Malcolm Hill.

BIG PICTURE

Temple: Two strong performances against Top 25 teams can only bode well for Dunphy’s team once American Athletic Conference play begins.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers’ first four games were blowout victories. Being forced to play a possession-by-possession game in the second half could benefit West Virginia over the course of the season.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Temple: The Owls beat the No. 25 and No. 19 teams in the nation on consecutive days. That may be enough for them to sneak into the Top 25.

West Virginia: A four-point loss to an unranked team should not cause West Virginia to drop out of the Top 25.

NOTABLE

Temple: The Owls came into the game having defeated No. 25 Florida State a day earlier. The win allowed Temple to extend its streak of defeating a Top 25 team to 10 years in a row.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers entered the game leading the nation with 13.7 steals and 27 forced turnovers per game. Their 15.7 turnover margin was also best in the nation.

UP NEXT

Temple: Visits Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday.

West Virginia: Hosts Manhattan on Monday.

More AP college basketball at http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

Pregame Shootaround: The season is finally here!

Kyle Wiltjer
Associated Press
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GAME OF THE DAY: Pittsburgh vs. No. 9 Gonzaga, 10:00 p.m. (ESPN)

The Panthers and Bulldogs made the long trek to Okinawa for their season opener, and it should be an interesting game between the two. Pittsburgh is looking to return to the NCAA tournament after narrowly missing out last season, with point guard James Robinson and forwards Jamel Artis and Michael Young leading the way. As for Gonzaga, Mark Few has one of the top front courts in the country at his disposal featuring Kyle Wiltjer, Przemek Karnowski and Domas Sabonis (who took a hard fall in their exhibition last weekend). The question for Gonzaga: how well will a backcourt hit hard by departures perform? We’ll get your first piece of evidence Friday night.

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: No. 1 North Carolina vs. Temple, 7:00 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

The Tar Heels enter the season as one of the favorites to win the national title, and they’ll be without their best player for the next couple weeks. Marcus Paige is out with a broken bone in his non-shooting hand, which means other perimeter options will be needed to step forward as distributors and perimeter shooters. Joel Berry II, Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson are three of the perimeter players to keep an eye on for the Tar Heels, who face a Temple squad that has to account for the graduation of point guard Will Cummings. The Owls are hoping to reach the NCAA tournament after missing out in each of the last two seasons, and a good showing in Annapolis could help Jaylen Bond and company in that quest.

WHO’S ON UPSET ALERT: Auburn -2 (vs. UAB, 9:30 p.m. SEC Network)

While there’s heightened optimism on The Plains thanks to the arrival of a talented recruiting class, and rightfully so, this is a dangerous opener to Bruce Pearl’s second season at Auburn. UAB returns all five starters from a team that won the Conference USA tournament title and upset Iowa State in the NCAA tournament, including forward William Lee and guard Robert Brown. The question for UAB is how they’ll match up with Auburn’s rugged power forward Cinmeon Bowers, who averaged 12.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game as a junior. Look for this to be one of the better games of the day.

SIX THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. Shaka Smart makes his debut as head coach at Texas and he’ll do so in Shanghai, with the Longhorns taking on a very young Washington team. Led by guard Isaiah Taylor, Texas returns four starters and added a talented recruiting class that includes Tevin Mack and Kerwin Roach.

2. There’s a lot of optimism in Milwaukee as Marquette’s talented freshman class led by Henry Ellenson opens up regular season play. However, they better be careful with a Belmont team that has plenty of experience and is the preseason pick to win the OVC. Senior guard Craig Bradshaw leads the way for Rick Byrd’s Bruins, who are tough to slow down on the offensive end of the floor.

3. The Mountain West will be involved in some intriguing opening night match-ups Friday night. Preseason favorite San Diego State hosts a dangerous Illinois State team, with another contender in Boise State visiting one of the preseason favorites in the Big Sky in Montana. And then there’s the battle of possible league dark horses, as Fresno State hosts an experienced Pepperdine squad.

4. Steve Prohm leads No. 7 Iowa State up against Colorado in Sioux Falls in his first regular season game as head coach. The Cyclones are expected to be contenders both in the Big 12 and nationally thanks to the return of players such as Georges Niang and Monté Morris. They’ll face a Colorado team that has a lot of questions to answer, but they’re anchored by one of the better post players around in senior Josh Scott.

5. Defending national champion No. 5 Duke opens its regular season with a home game against Siena. Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils added a highly regarded freshman class to some solid returnees, including sophomore guard Grayson Allen who’s expected by many to break out this season.

6. No. 22 Baylor has a difficult season opener to deal with, as they’ll host Stephen F. Austin in Waco. Brad Underwood’s Lumberjacks have reached the NCAA tournament in each of the last two seasons, and this experienced group led by senior forward Thomas Walkup will not back down from this challenge. Baylor boasts one of the nation’s best front courts led by seniors Rico Gathers Sr. and Taurean Waller-Prince.

TOP 25 SCHEDULE

  • Colorado vs. No. 7 Iowa State, 5:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
  • Pittsburgh vs. No. 9 Gonzaga, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN)
  • North Carolina A&T at No. 23 Purdue, 7:00 p.m.
  • Albany at No. 2 Kentucky, 7:00 p.m. (SEC Network)
  • No. 1 North Carolina vs. Temple, 7:00 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
  • Siena at No. 5 Duke, 7:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • Mount St. Mary’s at No. 3 Maryland, 7:00 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
  • Morgan State at No. 6 Virginia, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Northern Michigan at No. 25 Michigan, 7:00 p.m.
  • Eastern Illinois at No. 15 Indiana, 7:00 p.m.
  • Florida Atlantic at No. 13 Michigan State, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Fairleigh Dickinson at No. 11 Villanova, 7:00 p.m.
  • Maine at No. 20 Connecticut, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Saint Francis (PA) at No. 19 Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Northern Colorado at No. 4 Kansas, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Charleston Southern at No. 10 Wichita State, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Austin Peay at No. 18 Vanderbilt, 8:00 p.m. (SEC Network)
  • McNeese State at No. 21 LSU, 9:00 p.m. (SEC Network)
  • Western Illinois at No. 17 Wisconsin, 9:00 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
  • Pacific at No. 12 Arizona, 9:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
  • Stephen F. Austin at No. 22 Baylor, 9:30 p.m.
  • Southern Utah at No. 16 Utah, 10:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
  • Rice at No. 14 California, 11:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)

Temple lands three-star point guard

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With two seniors in their perimeter rotation for the 2015-16 season, Temple had some areas to target recruiting-wise in the Class of 2016. Having already received a verbal pledge from one guard in Quinton Rose, Temple landed its second commitment Sunday afternoon in the form of point guard Alani Moore. The 5-foot-10 Moore, a Washington, D.C. native who attends Friendship Collegiate Academy in Maryland, announced the news via Twitter.

Moore, rated as a three-star prospect by Rivals.com, played for the DC Premier grassroots program this summer and also participated in the Under Armour All-American Camp. While Temple doesn’t lack for perimeter options heading into this season, they will be asking “non-traditional” options (most likely Josh Brown and Shawn Alston) to handle the responsibilities.

That approach may very well work out for Fran Dunphy and his staff, but it didn’t mask the need for a lead guard to run the show in the future. That’s where Moore’s commitment comes into play for a program looking to get back to making annual NCAA tournament appearances after missing out in each of the last two seasons. Moore’s court vision and quickness on the ball will help Temple offensively when he arrives on campus in 2016.

Temple will also lose two front court options in Jaylen Bond and Devontae Watson at the end of the 2015-16 season, so they’ll need to address this area in recruiting as well. The Owls have three scholarships available for 2016-17, so there’s definitely room to do just that.

Temple beat out Georgia Tech, Massachusetts and Seton Hall for Moore’s verbal pledge.

Three-star 2016 point guard cuts list to four

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Alani Moore II, a Class of 2016 point guard who played well this summer for the DC Premier program, announced Saturday that he’s trimmed his list down to four schools. And in the case of three of those remaining programs, adding a point guard is a clear objective in their current recruiting cycles.

Making Moore’s list are UMass, Temple, Seton Hall and Georgia Tech, with the first three currently in a position where they need a point guard for the future.

UMass adds freshman Luwane Pipkins to the program, but with Trey Davis and Jabarie Hinds both being seniors the Minutemen are in need of an addition at the position. As for Temple, not only are the Owls somewhat shorthanded at the point (Devin Coleman and Josh Brown are among the possibilities but neither is a true point) but they’ll also lose two seniors from their backcourt rotation after the 2015-16 season in Coleman and Quenton DeCosey.

Seton Hall added Kansas State transfer Jevon Thomas to the program this spring, but with him on the sidelines the Pirates will have to find another option (Khadeen Carrington? Isaiah Whitehead?) at that position this coming season. Of the four schools on Moore’s list Georgia Tech has the most options at the point in the future, with Corey Heyward being a redshirt junior and both Josh Heath and Travis Jorgensen being redshirt sophomores.

Temple lands Class of 2015 guard from Argentina

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Temple added a commitment to its Class of 2015 as Argentina native Ayan Carvalho pledged to the Owls. The 6-foot-5 shooter has played for the Argentinian national team the last few years and recently played in the FIBA U17 World Championships in 2014.

Carvalho averaged 10 points and 2.3 rebounds per game during the World Championships in Dubai. He doesn’t turn 18 until September, so he’s still very young and Temple will have plenty of time to work with the talented guard. During U17 play, Carvalho shot 44 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3-point range. As a double-digit scorer for the U16 team in 2013 as well, Carvalho has experience as a scorer for multiple years on the international level and that should help him adjust to the AAC and playing at Temple.

Joining Carvalho in the Temple 2015 class is forward Ernest Aflakpui, guard Levan Alston and wing Trey Lowe.