Shizz Alston

Clutch defense, record FTs give Temple win in long-awaited home opener

uspresswire-temple-obi-enechionyia.jpg
USA Today Images

Clutch defense, record FTs give Temple win in long-awaited home opener

BOX SCORE

Obi Enechionyia was tired of seeing Wisconsin stud forward Ethan Happ get easy buckets in the paint and dominate the glass.

So Enechionyia took over the defensive assignment on Happ as head coach Fran Dunphy decided to switch up his lineup. Dunphy put four guards and Enechionyia out on the floor. The adjustment changed the complexion of the game.

Enechionyia’s two blocks on Happ in the final two minutes and Shizz Alston Jr.’s four clutch free throws were what the Owls needed to secure a 59-55 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers on Wednesday night (see observations).

This was a good way to rebound defensively for Temple, especially after a performance last Sunday against George Washington when the Owls allowed the Colonials to shoot 60 percent from the floor in a 71-67 loss. 

In the long-awaited home opener for Temple, Wisconsin shot just 41 percent from the field and made only 5 of 20 three-point attempts.

“I would say this was one of our better defensive performances,” Enechionyia said. “We really focused on that this week after the George Washington loss. We knew we had to step up on that end and stop guys, which we didn’t do on Sunday. [Better defense] was the emphasis all week and it worked tonight.”

The biggest concern for the Owls on the defensive end was trying to figure out how to guard the 6-10 Badgers forward.

Happ, a third-team All-American in 2016-17, had his way on the glass and in the paint for the majority of the game as he ended up scoring 23 points and grabbing six rebounds. He was the only player in double figures for Wisconsin and the guy the Badgers looked to for production in crunch time.

“Ethan Happ is a pretty good player as we all know,” Enechionyia said. “I was playing the five, so I had to guard him and did what I could to stay straight up and contest every shot to the best of my ability. He’s a tough guard and we were able to finish out well.”

Enechionyia, who added 11 points and seven rebounds, had the final say in the matchup. In total, he blocked four shots and made Happ earn every bucket late in the second half. His defensive presence sparked great energy and helped quiet an unexpectedly large Wisconsin fan presence.

“In my eyes, I feel like Obi is just as good as and even better than Happ,” Alston said. “I feel like Obi can be an All-American also and I feel like Obi showed it down the stretch. He made some great plays for us and he blocked a couple of shots. Obi showed his worth down the stretch.”

Record-setting Alston clutch at the charity stripe
Ever since he was a kid, Alston idolized Temple great Lynn Greer.

On Wednesday night, Greer was in attendance for Temple’s home opener as he watched Alston break one of his Temple records.

By making all six of his free throws against Wisconsin, Alston surpassed Greer for the most consecutive free throws made in Temple history with 52. Greer’s mark was 49 straight set in March 2001.

“Getting that record means a lot,” Alston said. “I looked up to Lynn growing up and was at almost every one of his home games when he played here, so it means a lot to me. It means a lot to get the record while he was here.”

Temple has always been in Alston’s blood. His father, Levan Alston Sr., played for the Owls in the mid-1990s.

While it doesn’t seem like it, this was a redemption story for Alston. Alston, who finished with a team-high 22 points, air-balled a wide-open three-pointer with 27 seconds left in the game and the Owls up two. This gave the Badgers one last chance to tie the game, which resulted in a missed three by Kobe King.

“I was a little too wide open on that shot,” Alston said. “I’ve got to get in a little better shape, too. Wisconsin grinds it out, so I was tired and I didn’t get my legs under me on that shot. I just knew I had to make up for that and not let my teammates down.”

Alston picked himself up and sealed the game with those four clutch free throws.

It’s a good thing for the Owls that he was the one at the stripe. Outside of Alston, the Owls shot 2 for 9 from the line, something Dunphy said can’t happen if you want to win games late.

“Shizz has that part of the game down pretty good,” Dunphy said. “I was actually disappointed he didn’t get fouled so that we didn’t have to throw the ball in bounds. You feel pretty confident as he gets to the line and I’m sure he does as well.”

Temple-Wisconsin observations: A home opener worth the wait

usa-shizz-alston-temple.jpg
USA Today Images

Temple-Wisconsin observations: A home opener worth the wait

BOX SCORE

Temple’s long-awaited home opener finally came and went, and the Owls were able to welcome their fans back into the Liacouras Center with open arms on Wednesday night.

The Owls, fueled by stifling defense late, held off the Wisconsin Badgers, 59-55. Shizz Alston Jr. sealed the game with four free throws.

Alston finished with a total of 22 points to lead Temple. Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ led all scorers with 23 points.

Obi Enechionyia added four blocks, including two of them in the final two minutes to help the Owls close out the Big Ten opponent.

Temple moved to 5-2 with the win, while Wisconsin dropped to 4-6.

• After going back and forth for 38 minutes of the contest, the game was decided by clutch free throws from Alston. In fact, Alston has now made 52 consecutive free throws dating back to 2016, setting the all-time mark at Temple. The previous record was 49 straight by Lynn Greer. Alston went 6 of 6 at the charity stripe, four of them big ones in the final 1:09 of regulation.

• Coming into the game, Happ, a third-team All-American last season, was the only player among Power Six conferences averaging at least 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists per game.

• From the beginning of the game, Happ made his presence felt and showed why he is one of the best bigs in the country. He was dominant on the glass, in the paint and in the pick-and-roll game. Happ (23 points, six rebounds and three assists) also showed his mid-range game, as well, and was the only Badger in double-figure scoring. Wisconsin looked to him early and often in the post, and Happ took advantage of the Owls' inexperienced bigs in Damion Moore and Ernest Aflakpui.

• Temple definitely missed Josh Brown’s leadership last season. The redshirt senior missed a majority of the 2016-17 season after an Achilles injury kept him on the sidelines. With him on the court, the Owls look more organized and composed. He is a glue player that makes everyone around him better and his experience is vital for a team made up of nine underclassmen. 

• Moore provided a jolt for the Owls when he entered the game at the 11-minute mark of the first half. His two quick buckets helped give the Owls a 23-20 lead at the 7:28 mark. Moore is just two games removed from his double-double against South Carolina in which he finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

• The Owls had to take a lot of shots at the end of the shot clock but Alston made two jump shots and Enechionyia connected on a three-pointer. Converting these situations helped the Owls hold a 31-28 lead at halftime.

• With 16:35 left in the second half, Brown took a shot to the face, specifically the nose area, from Wisconsin guard Brevin Pritzl, and was holding his head back as he walked to the sidelines. Alston converted both free throws from the Flagrant 1 foul. Brown would return at the 10:57 mark.

• Temple relied heavily on three-point shots. However, they ultimately fell flat from long range, making only 3 out of 14.

• Alston showed his shooting ability from mid-range and from inside the paint. The Owls have quite a backcourt in Brown and Alston, and all of Temple’s guards have solid ability to impact the game on both sides of the floor. The Owls will be in good hands once Brown graduates, with Alston (junior), Quinton Rose (sophomore) and Alani Moore II (sophomore) in the fold.

• Rose (nine points) exhibited why he is one of the most exciting players in the Big 5. His athleticism is what stands out, as well as how strong he is off the dribble. He took a steal and slammed in a two-handed dunk to electrify the Liacouras Center. At 6-foot-8 for a guard, Rose is extremely talented with a bright future.

• Temple’s student section was loud and engaged, and because of overflow, the Owls had to send some to the upper level of the arena. They had to be loud since Wisconsin fans surrounded the majority of the Liacouras Center and had a large presence.

• This is Temple’s first victory over Wisconsin since Dec. 3, 2003, when the Owls won, 70-67, in double overtime. 

• Temple’s next game will be at the Liacouras Center against Big 5 rival St. Joe’s on Saturday. Wisconsin’s next game, also Saturday, is at home against Marquette.

Obi Enechionyia leads Temple past Clemson to win Charleston Classic

ap-temple-basketball-charleston-classic-win.jpg
AP Images

Obi Enechionyia leads Temple past Clemson to win Charleston Classic

BOX SCORE

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Temple players hugged each other in a circle, jumped around and chanted in celebration of their latest early-season tournament title.

Owls coach Fran Dunphy's happiness was tempered by the knowledge his team has a long, long road ahead before seeing if their fast start will pay off in March.

Shizz Alston Jr. scored 14 points including four clinching foul shots as Temple defeated Clemson 67-60 to win the Charleston Classic on Sunday night.

"This will make Thanksgiving taste a little bit sweeter," Dunphy said. "But there's a long way to go."

Still, it was a historic start for Temple (3-0), which had never before won the first three games of a season away from home. Their Charleston victories included wins over a pair of Power Five opponents in Auburn of the Southeastern Conference and Clemson of the Atlantic Coast Conference. And it was their second straight early season tournament win after taking the NIT Season Tip-Off event a year ago.

"It's a great way to start the season," said Obi Enechionyia, who scored 12 points and was named the event's most outstanding player. "We've worked all offseason for this."

Temple used an 18-7 run that spanned both halves to gain control. Josh Brown scored 13 points and had two of his three 3-pointers in that stretch. And when he knocked his final long-range basket with 13:02 remaining the Owls were up 50-36 and on their way to the victory.

The Tigers (4-1) cut things to 60-56 on Shelton Mitchell's driving layup with 51 seconds to go. Clemson had the chance to make it even tighter when Marcquise Reed stole the ball with 50 seconds left, but Donte Grantham's quick 3 was off the mark.

Quinton Rose hit two foul shots for Temple and Clemson could not catch up.

The Owls got a measure of Charleston-flavored revenge on Clemson, which topped Temple 76-72 to win this title in 2008. The Tigers were playing in their third Charleston final. They lost to UMass in 2013.

Alani Moore II also scored 12 points for Temple, while Rose finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Mitchell led Clemson with 16 points. Reed had 14 points for the Tigers, 11 of them in the second half.

"We just got a little careless, a little excited and sped up," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said.

Big picture
Temple: If the Owls can play like this, expect them to make plenty of noise in the American Athletic Conference this fall. Temple defeated Auburn of the Southeastern Conference to make the finals, then outhustled and out-muscled Clemson to win the tournament title.

Clemson: The Tigers were off-kilter in the middle of the game, often failing to finish good looks near the basket. Clemson's 6-foot-9 forward Elijah Thomas struggled to make an impact down low with six points. The Tigers will need more, much more, from Thomas to compete.

Temple chant
The Owls had a deep, strong chant they used to enter the court in all three games and did it as they left. When Enechionyia was asked what they were saying, he smiled and declined to detail it. "We'd like to keep that between us," he said.

Is that ...
Movie funnyman Bill Murray, who has a home in Charleston, was at the TD Arena to watch the tournament finals. Murray routinely pops up at area events and had on a zip-up vest with a Clemson tiger paw on it.

Charleston recap
The game of the final day had to be Ohio's four-overtime, 96-94 victory over Indiana State in the seventh-place game. The Bobcats were down 18 points in the second half and eight in the second OT before Mike Laster's bucket in the final extra period gave them the lead for good. Old Dominion defeated Dayton 75-67 to take fifth, while Auburn outlasted Hofstra 89-78 for third.

Up next
Temple plays at La Salle on Sunday.

Clemson returns home to face Texas Southern on Friday night.