Moore delivers as Owls win home opener
With a one-point lead and 22 seconds remaining in the game, Ramone Moore stepped to the free throw line, looking for redemption.
Just four days earlier, the redshirt sophomore had missed the front end of a critical one-and-one at Georgetown, a game that ended in a loss.
"As soon as we got back [from Georgetown], I went to the gym and practiced free throws," Moore said. "That was through my mind the whole time because I felt like I let my team down, missing those free throws."
This time, the result was different. Moore hit both shots to extend Temple's lead to 72-69.
The defense did the rest from there and kept Siena off the scoreboard, preserving a 73-69 win for Temple at the Liacouras Center Saturday night.
"I thought it was big for me to go out there and knock those down," Moore said.
He finished with a career-high 16 points on 7 of 10 shooting from the field.
"I thought [Moore] turned the corner and made some really good plays for us," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said after the game. "…He has to do a good job of being strong and tough and very assertive, and I thought he did that certainly in the second half."
"Ramone is still young and still learning," Dunphy added. "Hopefully he came a long way tonight with not only stepping up to make shots, but also in playing much better than he ever has in our program."
You could also make a case that sophomore Juan Fernandez was seeking deliverance after his performance at Georgetown. He played just 16 minutes after committing a few poor fouls, which landed him in the coach's doghouse.
"His first foul at Georgetown was maybe one of the dumbest fouls I've ever seen," Dunphy said. "And it cost him. He would have played 34 minutes had he not made that mistake."
Fernandez responded with a career-high 20 points on 8 of 11 shooting. He connected on 4 of 6 from beyond the arc. On top of that, whenever the Owls needed a big bucket, often times it was Fernandez who came through in the clutch.
With the Owls leading, 68-67, and just under a minute left, Fernandez sliced his way to the hoop, was bumped, but was still able to convert an off-balance layup to make it a three-point lead.
"Tonight, I thought he really redeemed himself," Dunphy said. "I thought it was a very difficult shot to make. But he hung in there. He made a couple real big threes as well."
It's hard to say many games this early in the season are must win games. But with a demanding schedule ahead, this was a game Temple needed to secure. And to do it in a tough, gritty, down-to-the-wire fashion after falling that way earlier in the week, made it even better for the Owls.
"If we would have lost today, I think it would have hurt us mentally," Moore said.
A 13-0 run midway through the second half gave Temple its largest lead of the game at six. But Siena responded with a 6-0 run of its own to tie the game, and from that point on, no lead was larger than four.
"We knew this was going to be a very hard-fought game," Dunphy said. "And it was. It was a survival at the end."
If there are grounds for concern, it's that free throw shooting down the stretch still appears to be an issue. It played a role in the Georgetown loss and could have done the same damage Saturday.
With two-and-a-half minutes remaining and a three-point lead, forward Craig Williams stepped to the charity stripe with a chance to give the Owls some breathing room. Instead, the Saints dodged a bullet as Williams missed all three.
Then with 4.1 seconds remaining and Temple up by three, Fernandez went to the line in a one-and-one situation, looking to make it a two-possession game. But he, too, was unsuccessful.
Not until a Kyle Downey turnover and a Ryan Brooks free throw could the Owls breathe a sigh of relief.
"We try everything," Dunphy said. "We talk about it constantly; then don't say anything about it. Then we go back and change and do whatever. It's just stepping up to the line and getting it done."
Siena forward Alex Franklin scored a game-high 22 points, while Temple center Micheal Eric notched a career-high with 12 points.
With the win, Temple improved to 2-1, while Siena dropped to 2-1. The Owls are off until Tuesday for a home game against Ball State.