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December 12, 2012Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson is a soft-spoken and understated person as it is.
And after the 6-foot-6 senior forward scored a career- and team-high 20 points and dished out six assists to help Temple hold off Towson, 72-61, Wednesday night at the Liacouras Center, the guy couldn't even get a chair when he first walked into the postgame press conference.
His teammate, Scootie Randall, took the only available chair and smiled.
"They don't have a chair for you, Rah," Randall said, jokingly.
Hollis-Jefferson gave a customary aw-shucks shrug and eventually got his seat, but that didn't make him any more comfortable when it came time to talking about himself.
"I just made shots," Jefferson said before letting out a laugh. "I've been working on my midrange (jumper) for the longest, so I just put it to use out there."
On a night when Randall, the team's leading scorer, went scoreless in the first half and Khalif Wyatt, the team's second leading scorer, shot 3-for-11 en route to a modest 11 points, Hollis-Jefferson's midrange game was of utmost importance in helping the Owls outlast a Towson team that got a monster 30-point, 18-rebound effort from forward and Georgetown transfer Jerrelle Benimon.
Temple (7-1) was never really threatened Wednesday night, even when Towson got within four at 41-37 on a three-point play with a little more than 15 minutes to play. But even after consecutive threes from Wyatt and forward Jake O'Brien, the Owls still had a bit of a blas?ook about them.
Then Hollis-Jefferson threw down a dunk off a no-look feed from Wyatt that got the crowd of 4,625 to its loudest level of the night and followed it with an elbow jumper that pushed Temple's lead to 14 at 53-39. The Owls never saw their lead dip below 10 points the rest of the way.
Hollis-Jefferson, who came into the game averaging 8.4 points, got his 20 points on 9 of 16 shooting to go with six assists, three steals and a block.
"Rah was great," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "He was absolutely terrific - six assists to go along with 20 points. He made a lot of mid-range jump shots. I've been say for a while that I think if we're going to be a good basketball team, he needs to make mid-range jump shots, and he certainly stepped up and made a lot of those tonight."
After Temple lost, 90-67, to No. 2 Duke Saturday, Dunphy said his team would watch nearly every play of that game on film and learn a great deal from it. Randall said the Owls did "a lot of running" in practice between Saturday and Wednesday. But while Temple didn't allow 12 threes like it did to the Blue Devils, it did get hurt over and over again by Benimon, a 6-8, 245-pound forward who's one of five transfers on the Towson roster. He came into the game averaging a double-double and is one of the more underrated post players in America, but the Owls didn't exactly impede his path to the basket on some occasions.
Temple came into Wednesday night's game allowing opponents to shoot 42.6 percent from the floor, and Towson shot a little better than that at 43.3 percent, including 51.7 percent (15 of 29) in the second half. Stuff like that has to change if the Owls want to pick up a signature nonconference win against, say, Syracuse or Kansas to bolster their NCAA Tournament resume, but Dunphy said he didn't see too many defensive lapses against Benimon.
"I thought for the most part - and this is going to sound crazy - we had containment," Dunphy said. "He is a tough guy to guard. I thought he plays as hard as anyone I've seen and as competitively as anyone I've seen, so I was really impressed with him. He really came after us."
Junior forward Anthony Lee, Temple's lone post player that sees significant minutes, scored 10 points on 4 of 9 shooting but played just 17 minutes. Randall got all 13 of his points in the second half and swiped a team-high 12 rebounds. Sophomore point guard Will Cummings scored eight points and dished out just one assist in 24 minutes but played solid defense along the perimeter and got a career-high five steals.
Temple will have four days off before it plays two home games in three days, Dec. 17 and Dec. 19, against Towson and Alcorn State before its next big test - a Dec. 22 game against Syracuse at Madison Square Garden to cap off the Gotham Classic.
Putbacks: A pair of talented Philadelphia point guards, class of 2013 standout Rysheed Jordan from Vaux High School and 2014 blue-chipper Ja'Quan Newton from Ss. Neumann-Goretti, were at the game Wednesday night. Jordan, a 4-star recruit, is ranked by Rivals as the No. 5 point guard in the nation and 29th overall in the 2013 class, while Newton is also regarded as a four-star prospect.
OwlScoop.com editor John Di Carlo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @OwlScoop_com. or @jdicarlo.