Jake Forrester (10) earned his first start, with 14 points in the win over Rider. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Temple finished up it’s non-conference portion of the schedule on Saturday afternoon, using a massive 21-0 second-half run to turn what had been a serious upset bid by upstart Rider into a 78-66 win for the Owls. Here’s a notebook featuring three mini-stories from the afternoon:
Forrester Moves into Lineup
After 10 games of starting junior big man Justyn Hamilton at the middle, only to pull him a couple minutes into the game for someone more effective, Temple coach Aaron McKie finally made a change. Sophomore forward Jake Forrester got the starting nod against the Broncs, after coming off the bench in his first six Temple appearances.
“[I found out in] practice yesterday,” Forrester said. “I was just excited, this is what I worked for.”
Forrester, a Harrisburg native and Westtown School product who transferred from Indiana University in the offseason, sat the first four games before the NCAA ruled him eligible due to a transfer waiver. In his first game, he scored six points in 12 minutes against No. 12 Maryland; then, after a scoreless outing in 19 minutes against Texas A&M, he’s become one of the most productive Temple players.
The 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward, who’s mostly played the ‘5’ for the Owls, has now scored in double figures in four of his last five games after contributing 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting, with four rebounds in 21 minutes. On the season, he’s averaging 9.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per outing; over the last five games, he’s averaging 12 points and five boards.
“I thought he was giving us a little bit more in the interior, on the offensive side, on the defensive side, more physicality,” McKie said. “And so I just wanted him to get in there, I feel like we’ve got to start getting some more interior play, get the ball inside, flatten the defense out and being able to give our guards more space to operate on the perimeter.”
Forrester is the son of former Temple big man Dwight Forrester, a backup forward for four years from 1981-85. The elder Forrester was used sparingly by both Don Casey and John Chaney, scoring a total of 58 points in four years. With his outing against Rider, Jake Forrester’s already surpassed his dad in points in the Cherry & White, but would he remind his dad of that fact?
“I didn’t know [about the points],” he said, “but now I definitely am.”
Though McKie has two upperclassmen bigs on the roster in Hamilton and senior Damion Moore, it’s been the two younger post players who’ve taken up most of the minutes. Forrester and redshirt freshman Arashma Parks saw a combined 32 minutes against Rider, with Moore getting five and Hamilton staying put on the bench.
Parks, a muscular 6-9 forward out of the Phelps School, redshirted last season but has become a valuable bench piece for the Owls this season, averaging 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds. He chipped in six points and five rebounds against the Broncs in 11 minutes, coming up with a few key buckets during the second-half run.
“I definitely think when Arashma came out on the floor, he gave us a huge shot in the arm,” McKie said. “He was throwing his body around...he did a lot for us on both ends of the floor.”
De'Vondre Perry hit both of his 3-point attempts in Temple's win over Rider. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Temple on a shooting streak
On the season, the Owls have not been a strong team from the arc, making just 32.4% as a squad coming into Saturday, which was 213rd in the country entering the weekend. Over the last few games, however, they’ve been a much more efficient team from 3-point range.
Against Rider, Temple was 11-of-24 (.458) on its 3-point attempts, the third consecutive outing its shot better than 40% from deep; the Owls were 13-of-32 (.406) against Miami (Fl.) and 8-of-15 (.533) against St. Joe’s, making them 32-of-71 (.451) in the last three games.
“Our thing was today not to settle, they go under ball screens and stuff, but as a shooter you’ve got to take open shots, and they were falling today,” said senior guard Alani Moore, who was 5-of-10 from deep against the Broncs. “So I’m going to keep shooting them, and hopefully they go in.”
As a team, the Owls have been hot-and-cold; the last three games have been the only ones this season where Temple’s hit the 40% mark, and they’ve hit .333 or lower six games, bottoming out with a 2-of-21 (.095) performance against Mizzou.
There’s also quite a bit of variance within the roster; leading scorers Quinton Rose (14.1 ppg) and Nate Pierre-Louis (11.9 ppg) are a combined 17-of-76 (.224) from deep, but the rest of the squad is hitting 38% on 3-pointers. And neither Rose, a career 30% 3-point shooter, or Pierre-Louis (29.2%) have proven to be reliable snipers, so the Owls shouldn’t count on them to suddenly start connecting at a high clip.
While those two are still going to take their open shots, if McKie and the staff can get the team to make sure the ball winds up in the hands of Moore (30-of-75, 40%), De’Vondre Perry (15-of-29, 51.7%), and J.P. Moorman (11-of-32, 34.4%) around the perimeter more often.
In the Rider game, while Moore led the way, both Nate and Josh Pierre-Louis hit two 3s, and Perry –– who missed most of the first half after taking an accidental hit to the mouth, necessitating a few stitches in his lip –– hit both of his long-range attempts in the second half. Rose only took one attempt, and Monty Scott (33.3% this season) missed his only attempt.
“I told them, look, we’ll make shots,” McKie said. “We’ll make shots as time progresses, time goes on. If you’re open, be confident and shoot, I’d never tell guys not to take those shots because they’re practicing. And it’s still early in the season, and they’re trying to figure out how they best fit in with our style of play, and they’re starting to learn, they’re starting to get better.”
Owls waiting for American Athletic Conference play
The Rider game wasn’t the final one for Temple in its out-of-conference slate; the Owls have two more Big 5 games in Penn (Jan. 25) and Villanova (Feb. 16) still to come. But when they come back from their holiday break, it’s time for American Athletic Conference play, beginning with a pair of road games at Central Florida (Dec. 31) and Tulsa (Jan. 3) and then a visit from one of the AAC favorites, Houston, on Jan. 7.
Considering Temple’s already missed out on a few potential NCAA Tournament-worthy wins like Maryland, Missouri, and Miami (Fl.), McKie needs his team to come out strong in league play to start putting together a resumé that will impress the selection committee come March.
“I think this time of the year is good for some to get away from the game a day or two, and just kind of re-energize,” McKie said. “Recharge your body, recharge your mind, watch some film, and just think of ways that they can get better, and for me, think of ways how I can get better as a coach, how I can improve myself and how I can improve the team.”
With 10 days off between games, Temple’s players have the opportunity to travel home for a few days to celebrate the holidays and see family, then get back to campus a few days in advance of their trip to Central Florida (9-3), which is ranked just outside the KenPom Top 100.
“It’s time to take a little, not a break, but a little reset of the mind, get ready for conference play,” Alani Moore said. “I know the conference play is tougher, each year I’ve been here, just making sure we’re locked in, come back, ready to work from break and be focused. I think everybody knows what the goal is for the team, and just come back and be ready to work.”