WASHINGTON DC – Despite what Fran Dunphy told a flock of reporters after Temple’s 64-61 win over Maryland tonight, the Owls needed this game.
“I think every game is a much needed win,” the Temple head coach said after the game.
He has a point, but after going 1-2 in the Old Spice Classic, Temple needed a win of substance. They needed something that resembled a quality win over an NCAA Tournament-caliber opponent, and while we will have to wait and see if the Terps end up putting together a strong enough resume to make the Big Dance, picking up a de facto road win against an ACC team is a quality win.
The ironic part? If Maryland had won, we would probably have been saying the same thing.
The Terps are an interesting team this season.
They have a potential first round pick in Jordan Williams in the middle and they have a nice combination of experience and youth on the perimeter, but it hasn’t clicked yet for the Terps. There is something missing. The talent is there. Prior to tonight, Maryland hung with Pitt and Illinois at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in NYC.
For the most part, the Terps have been operating with a point guard by committee. Adrian Bowie starts, but, as we saw tonight, Terrell Stoglin and Pe’Shon Howard end up playing a bulk of the minutes. Stoglin and Howard make your typical freshmen mistakes — they commit some turnovers, they force some ill-advised shots — but they also provide a level of energy and are more dynamic as playmakers than Bowie, Sean Mosley, and Cliff Tucker.
See tonight as an example.
Maryland really struggled on the offensive end in the first half. They were turning the ball over and Temple was dictating what shots the Terps got. If Jordan Williams didn’t play as well as he did in the first 20 minutes (10 points, 9 boards), Maryland would have been in a much bigger hole than 32-21.
The start of the second half was much of the same. Maryland didn’t have a spark, and after Tucker turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions with about 16 minutes left in the game, Maryland found themselves down 36-21. That’s when Maryland head coach Gary Williams inserted Stoglin, Howard, and another freshman in Haukar Palsson. Those three sparked a quick 10-0 run that got the Terps back into the game. The two teams traded buckets for the next ten minutes before Stoglin and Howard sparked another run, this time 8-0, that even things up at 56.
“The young guys came in and did a great job of flying around,” Williams said. “I told the team after the game it doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s just (that) you have to play hard. We toughed it out and we could’ve won the game at the end.”
That right there is the problem.
Maryland didn’t come out of the gates ready to play in either half. Their veteran perimeter players — the guys that were supposed to be the leaders for this team — combined for eight points on 3-11 shooting from the field to go with five boards, three assists, and five turnovers. It was that lack of leadership that cost Maryland the game tonight.
Its also a major reason that Temple won.
This Temple team is unique. They have a number of talented players, but this group is a “team” in every sense. Their strength is their defense, a system that doesn’t rely on forcing turnovers with overwhelming athleticism, but instead thrives on helping and recovering, and buying into Dunphy’s defensive game plan.
This is a team with a seven man rotation where six of the seven average between 21.3 and 33.5 minutes and all seven average between 6.0 and 11.7 ppg. Their best player is either Ramone Moore or Juan Fernandez, depending on the night, neither of whom is the Owls bet NBA prospect. That goes to Lavoy Allen, whose biggest asset in this system — his unselfishness — is his biggest knock in the eyes of NBA scouts.
Most important, however, is the maturity and leadership this team shows. They never panicked has Maryland was making their comeback. Sure, the Terps forced some turnovers, but Temple still ran their sets offensively. The Owls didn’t take any quick shots down the stretch. The 6-to-8 point lead that Temple held for the majority of the second half seemed that much bigger because Temple’s style of play limits the number of possessions available for their opponent to score. Being down eight with ten minutes left to Temple is like being down eight with five minutes left against a team that plays at a faster pace.
Temple never wavered from what their goal was.
The leadership, however, really showed through on the two most important plays of the game.
Maryland completed their comeback with 1:52 left in the game. Dino Gregory grabbed a defensive board and outletted the ball to Stoglin. Stoglin hit Bowie, who was streaking up the floor. Bowie found a cutting James Padgett, who hammered home a two handed dunk that tied the game at 56. After the bucket, Maryland hesitated as they got back into their press.
Temple didn’t. The Owls immediately inbounded the ball and it ended up in the hands of Moore. Moore attacked, finding Lavoy Allen open for a lay-up and the foul. After Allen hit the free throw, the Owls were back up three points. On Temple’s next possession — following two missed free throws from Jordan Williams — Rahlir Jefferson collected an offensive rebound on a missed jumper from Moore. He turned the ball over trying to kick it back out, but the turnover resulted in a trap of Gregory in the corner. Instead of Stoglin coming back to get the ball, he waited on the other side of the lane. When Gregory tried to outlet the ball to him, Khalif Wyatt stepped in and picked off the pass, finishing an easy layup that all but cemented the game.
I’ve said it before, but poise and leadership on a basketball team fall under the Rule of Porn. They are difficult to define, but you know it when you see it. Its that poise and leadership that will makes the difference when two teams have relatively equal talent.
We saw it tonight from Temple. They were able to execute their game plan down the stretch.
We haven’t quite seen it yet from Maryland this season.
Whether or not the Terps get there will determine which tournament they are playing in come March.