Temple saw a 15-point second half lead disappear, but it found a way to come back in the last 90…
Pep In Their Step
In its opening game on Saturday – in a Big 5 contest against Penn at a packed-to-the-rafters Palestra – the Owls found some answers.
Fifth-year senior Dalton Pepper scored a career-high 19 points, including the go-ahead layup with 45 seconds to play and the clinching free throws with two seconds remaining as Temple pulled out a 78-73 victory. The Owls' lone senior also contributed nine rebounds and three assists without a turnover.
"We showed a lot of poise in the end," said Pepper, who played two years at West Virginia before transferring to Temple. "I'm just going to play as hard as I can and do what I can for the team and lead the younger guys. I felt confident. It felt great to come out and hit some shots."
Said Temple coach Fran Dunphy: "Nobody's rooting for Dalton Pepper more than this coaching staff and his teammates. He's earned this right. He's not played that many minutes in his career. Now it's his turn."
Junior point guard Will Cummings also had a career day with 18 points and four assists, though with six turnovers. Cummings asserted himself in a strong second half the way he was reluctant to in his early years playing with guards like Khalif Wyatt, Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez.
"It's a great experience just knowing you have to step up like those guys in the past," said Cummings. "We know teams have their runs and we just had to stay poised and under control."
Despite the strong Temple performance, the Quakers rallied in the closing minutes as a 15-point second-half Owls' lead dwindled in a hurry.
Penn went on a 16-2 run, capping it with eight straight points on a pair of three-pointers and a layup from Tony Hicks, who led all scorers with 28 points. The layup gave the Quakers a 73-71 lead with 1:39 to play and the first Quaker advantage since a 9-8 lead four minutes into the game.
But Pepper found Anthony Lee (12 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks) for the game-tying layup, then scored on a breakaway to give Temple back the lead. Cummings hit a free throw and Hicks missed a potential game-tying three with seven seconds left.
"We're still a work in progress, but there's good character with this group, we found a way," said Dunphy.
While Temple's veterans shined, the results were mixed on the three-man sophomore class and two freshmen, who all saw significant minutes. Freshman forward Mark Williams started alongside sophomore Quenton DeCosey, Pepper, Lee and Cummings.
DeCosey scored 12 points but shot just 4-of-19 overall and 1-of-10 on threes. Williams was 1-for-7 from the field but grabbed nine rebounds – part of the Owls' 49-35 advantage on the boards which included 18 offensive rebounds.
"Before you can make shots, you have to get shots and I think what (DeCosey) is doing is getting shots," said Dunphy. "I want him to take some of those shots, because for us to be a good basketball team he's going to have to take them and make them. He did a pretty good job overall other than not making them."
Penn coach Jerome Allen – a standout for the Quakers during Dunphy's long, successful tenure at Penn – dropped to 0-5 against his mentor. Darien Nelson-Henry scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, the only player that could match up with Temple inside.
"It's unfortunate," said Allen. "We didn't play with sense of urgency for 33 minutes. We don't pride ourselves on putting up a good fight. It's kind of a loser's mentality. We spent all the energy to battle back. Why didn't we play that way from the opening tip?"
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