Temple guard Pepper coming into his own

Temple's Dalton Pepper (32) goes up for a shot against the defense of UAB's Robert Williams, left, and Tosin Mehinti in the first half at the Charleston Classic NCAA college basketball tournament in Charleston, S.C., Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)
Temple's Dalton Pepper (32) goes up for a shot against the defense of UAB's Robert Williams, left, and Tosin Mehinti in the first half at the Charleston Classic NCAA college basketball tournament in Charleston, S.C., Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Mic Smith) (AP)
Posted: December 08, 2013

The details of Dalton Pepper's last time playing at the Wells Fargo Center don't come back to him easily.

The memory is fogged by the nearly four years that have passed, and there isn't much to tell. Then a freshman at West Virginia, Pepper scored three points and played eight minutes in an overtime win over Villanova.

Odds are, his trip to the big arena Saturday won't be so easily forgotten.

Now a senior, Pepper plays a key role for Temple (4-3), which rides a three-game winning streak into a noon meeting with similarly young Texas squad at the Wells Fargo Center.

After two disappointing seasons at West Virginia, sitting out a year after transferring to Temple, and a reserve role with the Owls last season, the Levittown native is at last living up to the promise that made him one of the state's most highly touted recruits out of Pennsbury High School.

"Some people just have to wait a little bit longer for their opportunity, and I guess mine is now," Pepper said after practice Thursday.

The 6-foot-5 guard was twice named Big Five player of the week in November. At the Charleston Classic, Pepper set career scoring highs in consecutive games, recording 22 points in a win over Georgia and 24 points in a defeat of UAB.

Pepper is averaging 16 points in seven starts, up from the 2.9 per game he averaged last season as a reserve.

"I think he's probably taken the biggest step forward," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "We had players at his position last year, so if he didn't deliver right away, someone else was going to get the opportunity. Now we're enabling him to make some of those mistakes he wasn't able to last year."

Texas will test Temple's momentum.


The Longhorns (7-1) don't have a marquee superstar, but they enjoy enviable depth. Junior Jonathan Holmes is the leading scorer at 12.7 points, but six players average between seven and 13 points.

"Everybody else in that lineup can go for 15 or 20," Dunphy said. "The balance does hurt us."


tmcmanus@philly.com

@ByTimMcManus

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