Coming off a 26-11 season in 2014-2015, the hopes are high on Broad Street that the Temple Owls will break a two year drought from the NCAA Tournament.
The Owls would waste little time in being matched up with a team that will likely be in the place they would like to be come this Spring - the NCAA Tournament - as they faced off Friday night with #1 North Carolina in the Veterans Classic at the U.S. Naval Academy.
Temple would battle back and forth with the Tar Heels throughout the first half, but would begin to fade as the game wore on and be overpowered by UNC in a 91-67 loss.
The Tar Heels would waste little time responding after a Coleman jumper put Temple up 11-7, however, going a 9-0 run to take a 16-11 lead.
The senior guard pair of Coleman and DeCosey would continue to find the basket throughout the first half to help the Owls keep pace with the first-ranked Tar Heels. Coleman would knock down back-to-back threes to knot the game at 34-34, but the Tar Heels would finish the half on a 13-2 run to take a 47-36 lead to the locker room.
Coleman would lead all scorers in the half with 16 points - matching a career-high for points in a game - but the Tar Heels’ size advantage became evident the more the half wore on.
That advantage was further exacerbated by the absence of Obi Enechionyia, who was out with an ankle injury, dealing a significant blow to the Owls’ inside presence. As a result, the Tar Heels would dominate the paint with ease, scoring 18 points in the paint and out-rebounding the Owls 23-12, including 10-2 on the offensive glass.
“It was a little tough because Obi can stretch the defense, bring the bigs out,” DeCosey said. “Obi would’ve definitely given us some good minutes.”
Leading the first half charge for UNC was 6-foot-10 forward Kennedy Meeks, who scored 12 points and pulled in 5 rebounds to help the Tar Heels dominate the interior.
In the second half, Meeks and the Tar Heels would continue their dominance on the inside, pulling away from the Owls and stretching their lead as large as 24 in a 91-67 victory over Temple.
“In the first half I felt like we came out strong, we competed and that was good. The second half we kind of kind of fell down,” DeCosey said.“Definitely depth and inside presence was good (for UNC), so I think that is where we fell down.”
Meeks would finish with 25 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in a dominant performance. Three other Tar Heels would join Meeks in double-digits for scoring, as Brice Johnson scored 16 points to go with 10 rebounds, Nate Britt scored 15 and Joel Berry II added 14 points and six rebounds.
“I think they had a lot of depth inside,” DeCosey said. “They just kept throwing guys at us and some of our big guys were getting in foul trouble, so I think their depth at the inside positions hurt us.”
UNC’s size would prove to be too much to overcome for the Owls in the end, as they were outscored 42-14 in the paint and out-rebounded 49-32 (15-9 offensive).
“We gave up way too many offensive rebounds,” Temple Coach Fran Dunphy said. “They had 15 for the game. There were times we were in position, we just didn’t do a good job of making the contact and keeping them off…We weren’t as good as we needed to be rebounding the basketball.”
Coleman would finish with 19 for the Owls in the loss, but sat out much of the second half with what he later said was a cramp.
He would be joined in double-figures by freshman Levan Alston, Jr., who scored 12 points in his collegiate debut, and DeCosey, who finished with 11 points in the loss.
Temple will return to action next Thursday, when they head to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off to face Minnesota.
By: Kyle Babcock
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