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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Role players lead Owls past Chippewas

In the absence of two of Temple’s best players, two role players stepped up for the Owls in their home opener.

Without injured starters, redshirt-senior Micheal Eric and senior forward Scootie Randall, junior guard Khalif Wyatt scored a game-high 23 points and sophomore guard Aaron Brown scored a career-high 21 points to lead Temple to an 86-74 win against Central Michigan.

“Everybody has a role and they have to perform that role,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “We can’t ever feel sorry for ourselves. We have good players, let’s get out there and play. But we have to play harder and smarter and tougher.”

After scoring 11 points in eight minutes in the first half, Brown played nearly the entire second half. He finished with 21 points in 22 minutes.

“[Our other guards], they draw a lot of attention,” Brown said. “[Dunphy] has been emphasizing that I have to be ready to shoot because some people don’t know that I’m a shooter.”

Wyatt started at guard and scored a game-high 23 points while dishing out seven assists in 31 minutes.

“We’re playing faster now,” Wyatt said. “Our guards are making good decisions and we’re getting open shots.”

Eric’s absence in the frontcourt hurt the Owls on defense. Redshirt-freshman Anthony Lee struggled defensively in the second start of his collegiate career. Central Michigan senior forward Andre Coimbra scored 22 points and had little trouble establishing himself in the paint.

“[Lee] was just okay today, not as good as he had been in previous games,” Dunphy said. “He’s a freshman, he’s six games into his career. When I yell at him, I’ll be yelling because I think he can do better, but at the same time I’m taking a step back and saying he’s going to make those kinds of mistakes.”

Wyatt and Brown emphasized that the rest of the team has to help out when Lee is struggling in the paint
“We’re smaller, so we have to be a little bit more scrappier,” Wyatt said. “When they’re trying to bully [Lee] inside, we have to help out.”

“With [Eric] and [Randall] out, whatever the rotation is, whoever’s playing has to step up,” Brown added.

The Owls shot a lights out 67.9 percent from the floor in the first half, including a three-point percentage of better than 50 percent. An early 18-2 run helped build a large Temple lead midway through the first half.

Senior guard Juan Fernandez hit two threes in the Owls’ first three possessions, and had 10 of Temple’s first 18 points. Brown was Temple’s leading scorer in the first half, netting 11 points while coming off the bench.

Coimbra led the Chippewas on an 18-2 run of their own towards the end of the first half to cut the Temple lead to fourteen at the break.

“We weren’t nearly good enough [on defense],” Dunphy said. “We have to cover for one another, I don’t think we did nearly good enough of a job.”

Brown continued with his hot hand in the second half, scoring 10 points to finish with a career-high 21 points.

Wyatt took over offensively in the second half and scored a team-high 13 second half points. Despite the best efforts from Coimbra and Chippewas’ sophomore guard Trey Zeigler, who each scored more than 20 points, the Owls stayed ahead for the entire second half and won the game 86-74.

“We have the makings of a good basketball team,” Dunphy said. “How good? We’re going to have to play with a couple of guys out, but it’s fun to be playing basketball and giving every guy an opportunity to play.”

Temple (4-2) will face Toledo (6-1) in Ohio on Wednesday before returning home to face inner-city rival Villanova (4-2) on Dec.10.

“Our next game is the biggest game,” Wyatt said. “So right now Toledo is the biggest game on our schedule.”



After being left out of the postseason picture last year, Temple will help kick off the bowl season this year in New Mexico.

The Owls (8-4) will make their fourth bowl appearance in program history on Dec. 17 against Wyoming (8-4) in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. Set in Albuquerque, N.M. and televised on ESPN, the New Mexico Bowl is the first scheduled game of the college football bowl season.

“I think it’s awfully cool to kick the bowl season off,” coach Steve Addazio said. “People are excited to see the first games. I’m thrilled to death.”

Temple’s decision was announced on Sunday night at the Liacouras Center during a Bowl Selection Party. Last season, the Owls were one of only two teams in the country to not be selected to a bowl game despite being bowl eligible.

“Last year was a really tough time,” John Palumbo, senior offensive lineman and team captain, said. “This year we were a little more skeptical. Now that we definitely have the bowl game we’re going to do the best we can to get our team prepared to go out there and do the best we can.”

The Owls will have an opportunity to do what only one other Temple team has accomplished. The Owls have appeared in bowl games in 1935, 1979 and 2009, with the 1979 team having the lone bowl win during the program’s history.

“It’s been pretty special,” Palumbo said. “Just thinking back on all the time we’ve had together, all the hard work we’ve put in, it’s really nice to see it pay off.”

Temple could hardly have asked for a better draw. The run-heavy Owls’ offense will be matched up against one of the worst statistical rushing defenses in the country with the Cowboys.

The Owls average more than 250 rushing yards per game, which is the seventh-best mark in the country. Junior running back Bernard Pierce has rushed for 1,381 yards and 25 touchdowns, a mark that is tied for third best in the nation.

The Cowboys have the sixth-worst rushing defense in the country, giving up more than 230 rushing yards per game.

Pierce was unavailable for comment Sunday night in response to rumors that he had filed paperwork for early entry into the NFL draft.

With Pierce, junior running back Matt Brown and redshirt-sophomore quarterback Chris Coyer, Wyoming may have their hands full with Temple’s spread offense.

“[Wyoming] has a good record, but I know that we’re going to beat them,” said Adrian Robinson, senior defensive end and team captain. “I hope they come with their best, because we’re going to come with our best, too.”

Overall, Wyoming statistically is middle of the pack. They have the 60th ranked scoring offense in the country and the 66th ranked scoring defense. Temple counters with the 45th scoring offense in the country, anchored by their Top 10 running game, and the third-best scoring defense in nation.

Like Temple, Wyoming benefited from playing in a mediocre conference, the Mountain West. While the Cowboys had one win versus an out-of conference team with a winning record, the Owls were unable to beat a bowl-eligible team outside of the Mid-American Conference.

The Owls said they expect the game to be a contest of two evenly matched teams.

“[Wyoming] is a wide open team,” Addazio said. “They’re a good football team, an exciting team. I think it’ll be a heck of a football game.”

“They have the same record as us. They’re a good team,” said Tahir Whitehead, senior linebacker and team captain. “I know they’re going to come out swinging. So are we.”

Addazio has a chance to be the first coach in Temple history to win a bowl game in his first season after already winning a record eight games in his first year.

“Honestly, it’s about what it means for this university,” Addazio said. “For the university, to be able, in the last three years, to get to two bowl appearances, it just continues the growth of this program.”

A Temple victory in the New Mexico Bowl would give the senior class 31 wins during their four-year tenure, setting a new mark for an all-time program best. A win would also make the senior class the second to win a bowl game, further cementing the notion that this is one of the best classes in Temple football history.

“[Addazio] and the team have put a good thing together and have given the seniors a chance to play one extra game and I’m very grateful for that,” said Morkeith Brown, senior defensive end and team captain.

“It’s my last year, and there’s nothing like going out with a bang,” Brown added.