It was anything but a work of art, and there's certainly a lot to work on moving forward, but Temple put four players in double figures and got solid frontcourt play from forwards Anthony Lee and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson to hold off a persistent Rice team, 77-63, Saturday night at the Liacouras Center to win its home opener.
Hollis-Jefferson led Temple (2-0) with 18 points on 8 of 10 shooting, and Lee recorded the first double-double of his career with 16 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Scootie Randall, who dropped a career-high 31 points on Kent State in the season opener Tuesday, overcame a 5 of 16 shooting night that included a 1 of 8 spell from three-point range to manage 16 points and 12 rebounds for his first career double-double, and Khalif Wyatt played through a sore hamstring to chip in 17 points and a team-high six assists.
But the final numbers on the stat sheet made this one look a bit easier than it was.
Rice (1-2), which has just 10 players on its roster after losing a remarkable five players to transfers and a sixth to a professional team overseas within the past year, trailed by just three at halftime and was still within six points with less that six minutes to play before a key three-pointer by reserve forward and Boston University transfer Jake O'Brien, four points from Randall and two buckets from Hollis-Jefferson kept Temple's lead close to double digits down the stretch.
When Temple coach Fran Dunphy was asked by a reporter if he saw anything pretty out there, his initial response was, "Not a lot."
Temple shot a dreadful 3 of 16 from three-point range in the first half and even-worse 1 of 10 from beyond the arc in the second half. The Owls also let Rice hang around by shooting just 5 of 11 from the free-throw line in the first half before sinking 16 of 17 from the charity stripe in the second half.
This could prove to be the deepest team Dunphy has ever had in his seven seasons at Temple, and the veteran coach proved he was serious about using that depth early in the game. With the Owls leading by just 23-16 10 minutes into the game, Dunphy had a lineup on the floor that consisted of freshman guard Quenton DeCosey, senior guard TJ DiLeo, O'Brien, West Virginia transfer Dalton Pepper and Randall. Freshman forward Daniel Dingle saw two minutes of action as well, and the only two scholarship players not to see the floor were sophomore forward Jimmy McDonnell, a deep reserve, and freshman center Devontae Watson.
The problem was that the bench depth didn't translate to production. Rice's bench outscored Temple's by 18-5, with O'Brien (3) and DiLeo (2) accounts for those five lone bench points. And when Dunphy went to that lineup at the 10-minute mark of the first half, Rice went on a 7-0 run to tie the game at 23-23.
"Defensively, we gave up a lot of go-bys in that stretch," Dunphy said. "That's the biggest thing for us. I would like to get more guys into the game and we talked a little bit about that after the game. We need to play as many people as we can in the first half and get them some run because we may need them in the second half, but I thought our perimeter defense was not as good as it needed to be. We gave up some go-bys and it led to some layups and fouls and three-point opportunities for them."
Temple got outrebounded by 44-30 at Kent State Tuesday and surrendered an unsightly 20 offensive rebounds in that game. Saturday night, the Owls outrebounded Rice by 44-30 and allowed just four offensive rebounds and four second-chance points. But the Rice Owls - Temple and Rice are two of four programs in the country to use the Owl as a mascot - don't have a player taller than 6-foot-8 on their roster, so cleaning up the offensive glass isn't really their thing.
Rice guard Tamir Jackson led the Owls with 17 points but shot just 6 of 17 from the floor. Julian DeBose added 15 points and Keith Washington added 12. Rice shot 50 percent (12 of 24) in the first half before cooling off at 34.5 percent (10 of 29) in the second half.
Temple had 16 assists on its 26 field goals and turned the ball over just eight times. There were open looks to be had, but the Owls just didn't knock as many of them down as they would have liked.
"I think (running their offense) is what we do well," Randall said, "so I think next game, shots will fall and we don't play until Sunday (Nov. 25 against Delaware) so we've got all week to practice. We'll be ready next game."