Owls itching to bounce back

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Will Cummings says past season's 9-22 record will serve as motivation.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Will Cummings says past season's 9-22 record will serve as motivation.
Posted: March 28, 2014

ALMOST.

That's the key word junior guard Will Cummings used to describe Temple's 9-22 season, its first in the new American Athletic Conference.

The Owls led in the second half of their first 15 games and won five of them.

"That was kind of what happened," Cummings, the team's second-leading scorer at 16.8 points a game, said yesterday. "It's motivation, that you were on the team that kind of let everybody down, didn't live up to the expectations everybody's used to seeing.

"When you're winning, everybody's feeling good. They have the confidence. When you're losing, everybody's kind of second-guessing themselves maybe. We're hungry to get back on the court already. We're tired of looking at the NCAA Tournament that we're not in right now."

The last time that happened on North Broad was 2007, Fran Dunphy's first season after taking over for John Chaney.

Villanova tied a program record by losing 19 times 2 years ago. This season, the Wildcats set a program record with 28 regular-season wins. There has to be a lesson in there somewhere.

"You forget it to an extent, but you remember the fact that it was a difficult year for us, a challenging year," said Dunphy. "There's nothing we can do about what went on. You have to look into the future.

"We were almost there. We didn't have a lot of margin for error. It's that kind of thing where a season can change on a game, a game can change on a play. So it stands to reason that a season can change on a play sometimes."

It's already been a fluid offseason. Dunphy knew he was losing fifth-year senior Dalton Pepper, his top scorer (17.5). Then he learned that junior big man Anthony Lee would be taking his 13.6 points and 8.6 rebounds elsewhere. Now sophomore swingman Daniel Dingle, who suffered a season-ending knee injury on Dec. 29, has been granted a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA. So he'll still have three seasons of eligibility. And he was the team's best threat off the bench when he went down.

"It was tough," Dingle said. "We had a rough season. Watching us lose, I wanted to be out there. I just wanted to see my guys win so bad. I had just started getting the feel of my role . . .

"Call me crazy, but I like [our team]. Everybody's probably, you know, going 'Oh, they [stink],' whatever the case might be. We're against all odds."

Lee's departure means more opportunities for sophomore Devontae Watson and freshman Mark Williams, who both showed potential at times. They also have wingman Quenton DeCosey, who averaged 15.4 points, and Josh Brown, who will back up Cummings. And there will be plenty of new pieces, most of them transfers. Forward Jaylen Bond (Plymouth-Whitemarsh High) spent two seasons at Texas. Guard Devin Coleman (Friends' Central) will be eligible in the second semester after spending 1 1/2 seasons at Clemson. And while Jesse Morgan (Olney) right now has only the first semester left on his clock after originally going to Massachusetts, there's hope that if he graduates this summer as targeted the NCAA might allow him to play the entire season. There's also incoming freshman forward Obi Enechionyia, who had offers from a bunch of high-profile programs. And there's always the chance that Dunphy could add another part: He's involved with forward Jordan Goodman, of Harcum College, which reached the junior college final four.

"You're always looking," said Dunphy, who understands more than anyone that his guys need to do a much better job at the defensive end. "That's the lifeblood of what you do. We'll keep plugging away."

And if nothing else . . .

"I think there's a lot of different possibilities," he said.

As long as none of them involve too many more of those dreaded almosts.


On Twitter: @mikekerndn

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