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Temple basketball preview: Josh Brown running the show

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Temple basketball preview: Josh Brown running the show

Our City 6 men's basketball previews begin today with a look at Temple. Above, our "Big Men on Campus Series" begins with Owls forward Jaylen Bond. On Tuesday, our City 6 preview continues with Saint Joseph's.

Temple has a new man running the show this season — and there are going to be some growing pains.

Junior guard Josh Brown takes over as the starting point guard for Will Cummings, who graduated.

"It will be a little difficult being that we lost a great player," senior guard Quenton DeCosey said Monday at Temple's media day.

"But Josh Brown will step up. He's working extremely hard. He's a great defender. He's very poised in the backcourt. Not as much of a scorer as Will, but can get everybody involved."

Brown served as one of the top reserves last season on an Owls team that finished third in the American Athletic Conference with a 13-5 conference record, 26-11 overall.

This season, TU is expected to take a step back with the departure of Cummings and guard Jesse Morgan. TU was picked to finish sixth in the American in 2015-16.

The Owls open their season Friday night in Annapolis, Maryland, against No. 1 North Carolina in the Veterans Classic.

While head coach Fran Dunphy would not commit to a starting lineup, he did mention Brown has been his hardest-working player over the summer.

Dunphy has noticed Brown's spending more time on the court and in the film room in the offseason — something his teammates have also noticed.

Last season, Brown was one of only three players to get minutes in all 37 games, with two starts. He led the team with 6.3 points per game off the bench in 21.8 minutes.

"I don't want to be in late-game situations without him," Dunphy said of Brown. "You can pretty much trust he's going to be there.

"He was in the game always at the end of the game the last two years. So now instead of having Will be the go-to guy, Josh is going to have to have that mentality.

"I think he's ready for that. There will be a little bit of growing pains but I think he's ready for it and he deserves it."

In the summer, Brown said he spent a lot of time on the court, but he was also focused on building his stamina off it. Additionally, he watched film of former Temple point guards Cummings, Khalif Wyatt and Juan Fernandez.

How is he adapting to being the guy now?

"It's a lot different," Brown said. "I'm not just waiting for the call anymore. I've got the ball in my hands. I'm making all the calls. It's different in that sense. It's basketball at the end of the day."

Coming off the bench his first two years on North Broad, Brown learned a lot from playing behind Cummings. More importantly, Cummings taught him the importance of confidence.

"When your teammates see that you're confident, they get more confidence," Brown said, adding he wants to gain the trust of his teammates.

TU's starting backcourt will feature Brown and DeCosey, its second-leading scorer last season at 12.3 points per game. Jaylen Bond, the Owls' team captain, will also be a starter.

As for who joins Brown, DeCosey and Bond as starters, Dunphy shot off a few other names who could see starting time. Senior guard Devin Coleman has impressed Dunphy and may find his way into the starting five. Devontae Watson and Mark Williams can also start.

Sophomore forward Obi Enechionyia and redshirt junior guard/forward Dan Dingle will be in the rotation, and then there are the three freshmen. Levan Shawn Alston Jr., Trey Lowe and center Ernest Afakpui are all going to get playing time.

"They're going to be in there," Dunphy said. "The better they play the more minutes they're going to get and that's not only true of the freshmen but everybody we have in the program.

"The three freshmen have been very, very good, hard working and understanding the game. They're ahead of my expectations."

This time last season, the Owls' coaching staff wanted TU to improve its defense and it did. Last season, TU was a much better defensive team than the 9-22 club from 2013-14. A big part of that was the addition of Bond, who sat out '13-14 after transferring to Temple from Texas. The 6-foot-8 forward made an immediate impact.

Bond, a Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School product, led the AAC in rebounding at 7.9 per game. He also had 48 steals — 1.4 per game — and blocked 26 shots. With an increased leadership role, what does Dunphy want Bond to focus on as a senior?

"[Dunphy] wants me to play without fouling," Bond said. "He doesn't want me to go on the bench a lot, so I have to be smarter defensively."

Dunphy was impressed with his team's defense last season, but acknowledged this season there's going to be a learning curve.

"We're missing one critical ingredient from that team last year and that's Will defensively," Dunphy said.

"[Cummings] seldom allowed too many people to go by him and that's the role Josh has to step up and perform."

And it's a role Brown is embracing.

Saint Joseph's comeback bid comes up short vs. Florida

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Saint Joseph's comeback bid comes up short vs. Florida

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Keyontae Johnson saw Florida’s big lead shrink to almost nothing in the final minute. He made sure his teammates didn’t let this one get away from the Gators.

Johnson had a career-high 22 points to lead the Gators to a 70-62 victory over Saint Joseph’s at the Charleston Classic, playing without ejected leading scorer Kerry Blackshear Jr. on Thursday. Not that it came easily as Florida (3-2) saw its 18-point lead cut to 64-62 in the final minute.

“We just communicated, told everyone to stay together,” Johnson said. “We stayed locked in.”

The focus proved the difference as Florida hit six foul shots down the stretch while Saint Joseph’s missed two shots and committed a pair of turnovers.

“Down the stretch, I thought we showed a tremendous toughness,” Florida coach Mike White said.

The Gators needed it with Blackshear missing almost all of the game. He played three minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls. Then he was thrown out when he was battling underneath and his elbow looked like it hit Saint Joseph’s guard Taylor Funk. Blackshear, who came in averaging 14 points and 12 boards, was called for a flagrant two foul and sent off the court.

Blackshear’s departure seemed to energize the Hawks (2-3), who trailed 43-27 when the Florida star left the court. That’s when St. Joseph’s went on a 29-16 spurt to cut it to three points on Funk’s basket with six minutes left.

But Johnson followed with a basket and Andrew Nembhard made another to extend the lead.

St. Joseph’s had one last charge, slicing things to 64-62 on Ryan Daly’s layup in the final minute. The Hawks had several chances to tighten things, but could not. “We’re not going to go down easy,” Daly said.

Florida will take on Miami here Friday for a spot in the Charleston Classic finals.

The Hawks face Missouri State on Friday.

Johnson also had a game-high 12 rebounds. Nembhard added 16 points.

Florida took control quickly and appeared to make this a runaway as Noah Locke had two 3-pointers and Nembhard also hit one from behind the arc as the Gators went ahead 11-2 less than two minutes in and steadily built its lead.

St. Joseph’s had hit 34 first-half 3s combined its first four games. It made just one of its 14 long-range attempts this time as it fell behind.

Daly led the Hawks with 25 points.

Swider scores 26, No. 17 Villanova routs MTSU 98-69

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Swider scores 26, No. 17 Villanova routs MTSU 98-69

CONWAY, S.C. -- It’s been awhile since No. 17 Villanova shot this well from long range. Cole Swider has never scored like this.

Swider scored a career-high 26 points with six 3-pointers, and the Wildcats routed Middle Tennessee 98-69 on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Myrtle Beach Invitational.

Collin Gillespie added 16 points and hit four 3s, Justin Moore finished with 15 points and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl had 11 rebounds to help Villanova (3-1) - which never trailed, led by 35 and shot 57% while winning its second straight following a 25-point loss at No. 10 Ohio State.

And yet, another number in the box score caught coach Jay Wright’s eye - Swider’s seven rebounds.

“He’s more than just a shooter,” Wright said.

And the Wildcats have plenty of those. They made 18 3s - one shy of the school record, and their most since they also had 18 in a victory over Kansas at the 2018 Final Four.

“They have elite size with great shooters,” Middle Tennessee coach Nick McDevitt said, “and any short close-out or decent close-out results in three points.”

Eleven of them came during a first-half barrage that pushed the lead well into the 20s. Swider hit his fifth 3 from the corner shortly before the buzzer to put the Wildcats up 53-28 at halftime.

Saddiq Bey then took the lead to 30 with a 3-pointer two minutes into the second half.

Donovan Sims scored 18 points and C.J. Jones had 16 for the Blue Raiders (3-2). Leading scorer Antonio Green, averaging 23.5 points going into the game, finished with four points on 1-of-7 shooting while dealing with foul trouble.

“They’ve got a lot of interchangeable parts, so they were switching just to never let him see space,” McDevitt said.