When Scootie Randall injured his knee prior to last season, there were people who said the Temple standout would never be the same.
They were right.
Playing in his first game in more than a year, Randall hardly looked like his old self in the Owls’ 80-66 victory at Kent State.
Instead, he even was better.
Randall scored a career-high 31 points on 10-of-19 shooting to propel Temple to a hard-fought road win in its first game of the season. Randall, who hadn’t played in a game since March of 2011, also made four steals against a Kent State squad that was high on momentum after upsetting Drexel in overtime four days earlier.
Temple coach Fran Dunphy was asked after the game if he was surprised by Randall’s breakout performance after such a long layoff.
“Not really,” Dunphy told ESPN.com. “He has no fear. He’s not afraid to make a mistake. He’s worked really hard for this moment.”
Randall, who redshirted last season after tearing the meniscus in his left knee, connected on 5 of 12 attempts from 3-point range. His biggest moment came when he swished back-to-back 3s to turn a 46-46 tie into a 52-46 Temple lead.
The Owls would never trail again.
“Coach Dunphy always says, ‘To take shots, you’ve got to get shots,’” Randall told ESPN.com. “I was working extra hard out there to create opportunities for myself.
“The last year has been tough, but my teammates kept pushing me. They kept me involved. It felt good to be back.”
The 6-foot-6 Randall -- a preseason third-team all-conference pick -- said he was “extremely proud” with Temple’s overall performance Tuesday. Dunphy echoed that sentiment.
“We knew they’d be fired up and ready to go,” Dunphy said of Kent State. “When you’re on the road for your first game, you’re going to make some mistakes. But we handled it about as well as we could.”
Dunphy expressed mild frustration about Temple’s 19 turnovers -- about a half-dozen of which were traveling calls, Dunphy said. And the Owls were outrebounded 39-28. But Temple shot 52.9 percent from the floor and forced 21 Kent State turnovers.
Those are good signs for a squad that hopes to contend with VCU, Butler and Saint Louis for the Atlantic 10 title. The Owls will move to the Big East after this season.
“Anytime someone makes a run at you and you respond, you have to be encouraged,” Dunphy said. “There were some things I like and some thing I didn’t like. But to play like this in our first game, and to do it on the road ... I’ll take it.”