NEW YORK - Shizz Alston Jr. looked to set up Temple’s offense from the opening tip, but as soon as he touched the basketball on the first possession of the game, he saw two white jerseys swarming him. The message was clear from the Owls’ opponents: don’t let Alston get into an offensive rhythm, or any Temple player for that matter.
Temple played Virginia Commonwealth University in the late night game of the Legends Classic tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Though the game tipped off past 9:30 pm on Monday, VCU’s defense was anything but sleepy. The Ram’s played alert and aggressive throughout.
VCU held Temple scoreless for the first five minutes of the game, and Alston said if it wasn’t for the slow, unfocused start, “we [Temple] win that game pretty easily.”
The Owls lost to the Rams 57-51 in what ended up being a closely contested game despite Temple trailing by as many as 17 points in the first half.
Temple’s first points came at the 14:52 mark in the first half when senior center, Ernest Aflakpui, tipped in a missed layup by junior guard, Quinton Rose.
The Owls were able to comeback and even take the lead in the second half in large part due to the energy and effort displayed by sophomore guard, Nate Pierre-Louis. Pierre-Louis had 11 points, eight rebounds and six steals in the loss to the Rams.
Despite leading the team in scoring for the game, Pierre-Louis didn’t feel as if he was filling in for the off-night Rose and Alston were having.
“It’s not filling in, it’s my job,” Pierre-Louis said. “I do the same thing every single game. Rebound, play defense, play as hard as I can.”
Heading into the Legends Classic, Alston was Temple’s leading scorer, averaging 19 points per game on a 43.5 percent field goal percentage through the first four games of the season. He only scored six points and shot 14.2-percent against VCU.
Rose was also held to season lows against the Rams. Despite averaging 19 points per game on the season, he scored only eight points and didn’t make any of his five 3-point field goal attempts.
Though the two upperclassmen guards played inefficiently for the first round of the Legend’s Classic, they redeemed themselves in the consolation game the following day.
Temple finished the early season tournament in third place after Rose scored a game high 23 points on Tuesday night in a 76-59 victory against the University of California, Berkeley. Rose shot 11-for-20 on field goals overall and made a 3-pointer against Cal.
Alston also bounced back from his inefficient play by recording his second career double-double against the Golden Bears. He finished with 15 points and 10 assists in the win.
Pierre-Louis, who kept Temple in the game against VCU, also played efficiently against Cal. He filled the stat sheet with nine points, nine rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks.
Pierre-Louis earned a spot on the Legend’s Classic All-Tournament Team for his all around play throughout the tournament.
As a team, Temple shot 54.4-percent overall and 42.9-percent from behind the arc which was a vast overnight improvement compared to its game against VCU. The Owls shot just 32.3-percent overall and 14.3-percent the prior night.
Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said Temple’s win over Cal was a significant one, and though his team didn’t play perfectly, Dunphy said “we did some really good things tonight.”
“Every game on our schedule is huge,” Dunphy said. “But this is important because it’s a bounce-back game, and you want to play your best basketball always.”