Temple shows it's not a one-man team in win over Seton Hall

Temple's Juan Fernandez lofts shot vs. Seton Hall in first half.
Temple's Juan Fernandez lofts shot vs. Seton Hall in first half.
Posted: November 13, 2010

Temple's Lavoy Allen could be the best player in the Atlantic 10.

So when the 6-9 senior forward goes to the bench, it's not supposed to be a good thing for the Owls.

In last night's season opener at the Liacouras Center, he had to sit with just under 11 minutes to go in the first half, after picking up his second foul. At the time, the country's 22nd-ranked team was trailing by five points to a Seton Hall club picked to finish 11th in the Big East.

So, naturally, the Owls scored 21 of the next 23, including 17 in a row, without him. Which might help explain why they are ranked so high, coming off a 29-6 season.

In a game that would get a little too close at the end, that stretch pretty much was the difference. And it said something about the Owls. Yes, they have individuals who are talented. But they mostly get it done because they tend to play as one.

It's the Fran Dunphy way.

They led by 10 at the half, and by 16 with just over 4 minutes left. They would get just two more points, on a pair of free throws by Juan Fernandez with 1.9 seconds showing, but that was still enough. The final was 62-56.

The Pirates, under new coach Kevin Willard, started on the road for the first time in nearly a decade, with four starters back from a squad that won 19 times.

Things got ragged at times, as you might expect in early November. So Dunphy will have reasons to get on his guys. But the decisive run at the end of the first half won't be among them.

"We don't want to be living on that," Dunphy said. "[Allen is] too valuable a guy for us. But I'm proud of how we managed the second half of the first half. And the first 15 minutes of the second half. They all did a good job, even though we were playing pretty small. Overall, we battled well. I'm thrilled to get [the win]. I can't say I was thrilled with the last few minutes. We let them up for air a little bit."

That's what cushions are for. The Pirates scored 12 straight, in a span of 3:11, to get within four on a layup by Jeff Robinson at 17.8, some 13 seconds after Fernandez had missed the front end of a one-and-one. The Owls had to call a timeout when they had trouble inbounding the ball. Then they had to call another, after they got it in but got trapped in the backcourt. Finally, they got it in and got it to Fernandez in the frontcourt. By the time Seton Hall got around to fouling him, there really wasn't enough time remaining anyway.

"The important thing is finding a way to win," said Fernandez, who finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists. "We let up a little bit at the end. It's tough to play your first game against a team that plays that kind of defense. Our offense is not 100 percent yet. We talked all week about their pressure. But most of our [18] turnovers were in the halfcourt, to be honest. We were a little nervous. We knew we needed this win."

And only six of those turnovers occurred in the last 20 minutes.

Fernandez got the rally going, by scoring seven straight. Ramone Moore, who led the way with 14, would add five, as did Khalif Wyatt off the bench.

Another sub who could be a starter, Rahlir Jefferson, got his first career double-double (10 points and boards) in 24 minutes. Allen had nine and nine, to go with three blocks. Micheal Eric had eight points, six rebounds and five blocks.

The Owls, who had problems getting to the foul line last season, shot only two freebies in the first half. They finished 8-for-13, and 2-for-12 from the arc. Scootie Randall and Jefferson, who made four of his five shots, each had four offensive boards.

That's why they call it a journey. It's not supposed to be perfect at this point.

"It's going to take a while," Fernandez said. "When we look at the film, we can see the things we did wrong at the end. [Seton Hall] was just shooting. They had nothing to lose.

"[Our bench] was great. If we're going to be good this season, we're going to need them a lot. When they step in there, they've got to be ready."

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