BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Offense hasn't been a major problem for the Temple basketball team this season. Saturday night, the Owls showed how good they could be when they play a little defense, too.
Dalton Pepper drained 6 of 8 three-pointers and scored a career-high 26 points to lead Coach Fran Dunphy's squad to a 101-65 victory over LIU-Brooklyn at Barclays Center.
The undermanned and undersized Blackbirds simply had no answer for Pepper and backcourt mates Will Cummings (career-high 23 points) and Quenton DeCosey (career-high 19 points). Temple converted 23 of 32 field goal attempts in the second half, including 11 of 16 three-pointers.
And LIU-Brooklyn didn't have an Aaric Murray to match those numbers.
For a while, it looked like the Owls might threaten the school-record 114 points that Bill Mlkvy and his teammates tallied against Glassboro State in 1951. A DeCosey three-pointer gave them a 98-55 lead with 4:22 to go. But the Owls got stuck on 98 for nearly two minutes after Dunphy cleared his bench.
The win gave the Owls a 5-5 record as they head into an 10-day break before opening American Conference play at Rutgers on January 1.
Asked whether he had a feel – after six weeks of play – of what the ceiling could be for this year's team, Dunphy said it all depends on how they play defense from here to the finish.
If they pay attention to their assignments the way they did against the Blackbirds, they may have a chance.
Coach Jack Perri's guard-oriented squad features the nation's leading assist man (Jason Brickman) and several dangerous perimeter shooters. But Cummings and backup point guard Josh Brown limited Brickman's ability to distribute the ball, and the Blackbirds shot 29 percent from the field.
LIU-Brooklyn was missing two regulars – its second-leading scorer and its second-tallest regular – leaving Perri with only one player taller than 6-foot-6 in his eight-man rotation. And it only got worse when his 6-foot-6 "center" Landon Atterberry fouled out after just seven minutes of action. Backup center Glenn Feidanga (6-foot-8) lasted 17 minutes before fouling out.
No size and no depth left Perri with no options on defense.
"We had to play zone," he said.
And the Owls torched that zone throughout the second half – in one stretch making 13 straight field goal attempts, including six straight three-pointers.
They may indeed have threatened Mlkvy's mark had they shot better than 10 for 21 from the free throw line.
Ultimately, though, the offensive output wasn't as important as the demonstration that the Owls can actually make defensive stops – which didn't seem possible in this week's loss to Murray and Texas Southern.
The question now is whether they can play that kind of defense against the bigger, stronger teams in the American.