An eight-point Temple lead with 8 minutes left disappeared quickly and, once Kent State got ahead, it did not relinquish it, and won, 81-77.
"We've been pretty lucky over the last 6 or so years that we've replaced veterans with veterans," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "We don't quite have that going for us this year, but it's wonderful to try and get inside the head of an 18- to 20-year-old at this point and see how we can try to improve them. I like our team. I like who we are, but we need to tighten some things up."
Temple has won 45 of its last 50 home games. Kent State, by the way, has won 20 or more games in 14 of the last 15 seasons, so it is not as if Temple lost to a team without pedigree.
"The respect I have for coach Dunphy, it's enormous," Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said. "To be able to come in here and beat a team that he coaches, it's something that I'm real proud of our guys for, because I just know how good a coach he is, how well-prepared his teams are and how good they are."
In the end, Temple (1-1) lost the game because it got crushed from the three-point line (33 points to 15), could not defend well enough and, after playing a very efficient offensive game for 32 minutes, did not play with much poise or purpose down the stretch.
"We did a couple of things on the defensive end which we couldn't do," Dunphy said. "I thought our three-point jump-shooting defense was really poor. We over helped way too much and they took advantage of it."
Every Temple starter scored in double figures. Anthony Lee (16 points, 11 rebounds) had his second straight double-double. Kent State tilted its defense closer to the basket in the second half, testing Temple's shooting and making it more difficult for Lee to get touches at the rim.
"We have a lot of players that didn't play last year," said Lee, who was one of the players who did. "We're still trying to come together and see how we can close out games. The guys that are playing right now are doing a pretty good job, not having played really any minutes last year."
Point guard Will Cummings had 17 points and seven assists. He flew by defenders in the first half, but got a bit excited in the second half, still going fast when slow would have been the better choice. Quenton DeCosey (16 points) showed a nice deep touch and moves at the rim. Freshman Mark Williams (11 points) was solid for somebody playing his second college game. Pepper (15 points) had a personal nine-point run that started with Temple leading, only 60-59. The Owls had that eight-point lead at the end of it, but could not sustain it.
Temple started the game by doing whatever it wanted on offense, scoring on its first nine possessions. But all those threes kept the Golden Flashes in the game. They did not make many threes in their opener against a Division III team. And Senderoff said they were worse in their scrimmage. But they made them when it really mattered, shooting a sensational 11-for-22 from the arc.
The Owls had only four turnovers in 32 minutes, but then went seven possessions without scoring. Good basketball became frantic basketball. Kent State kept playing, emerged with the lead and held it to the finish line.
"There was a little bit of panic on our part on the offensive end," Dunphy said. "We're still trying to get to where we need to be, in terms of trusting each other. If we could have made a couple of extra passes and not panicked a little bit, that would have helped us."
This was Temple's only home game in November, so the Owls will have to find themselves at Towson and the Charleston (S.C.) Classic before the next home game against Saint Joseph's on Dec. 4.
"We shut down a little a bit," Dunphy said. "We got a little bit nervous. On the other end, we just couldn't get the stops that we needed. They had a loose ball down the other end. It has to be ours and they step up and make any easy layup out of it."
All true. And it is also true that it is early, very early.