Consistent defense lifts Temple over Seton Hall

PHILADELPHIA -- Midway through the first half the Temple offense was struggling and forward Lavoy Allen was on the bench in foul trouble.

No problem for coach Fran Dunphy and the Owls as their stingy defense took over.

Ramone Moore scored 14 points and No. 22 Temple held Seton Hall without a field goal for nine minutes in a 62-56 victory Friday night in the season opener for both teams.

"I don't know we should be living on that," Dunphy said. "Lavoy's too valuable a guy for us. I was proud how we managed the second half of the first half. For a first game I was thrilled to get it."

Juan Fernandez had 12 points while Rahlir Jefferson had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Owls.

Jeremy Hazell scored 17 points for Seton Hall, which lost in the debut of coach Kevin Willard. He took over in March after former coach Bobby Gonzalez was fired. Willard had been the head coach at Iona for three years.

He got an immediate boost when Hazell, Herb Pope and Jeff Robinson decided to come back instead of entering the NBA draft. The three weren't enough to help him win the opener.

Willard can take heart that his team didn't quit, trailing by 16 points with 4:16 left. The Pirates scored the next 12 points to cut their deficit to 60-56 with 15.4 left.

That's as close as they would get.

"I'm still getting used to these guys a little bit," Willard said. "Opening here is not where you want to get used to them."

Trailing 18-13 midway through the first half, Fernandez and Temple took over. After a basket by Jefferson, Fernandez hit a leaner in the lane that made it 18-17.

Pope answered with a jump hook with 8:15 left that made it 20-17. That would be the last field goal that the Pirates would hit in the half as Temple scored the next 17 points.

"In that 17-0 run we got ourselves in trouble taking some bad shots," Willard said. "They did a good job getting out on the break and attacking us. It was bad offense as opposed to good defense."

Fernandez started that burst with a 3-pointer and followed with a tough turnaround jumper on the baseline. Khalif Wyatt's nifty three-point play with 1:23 left in the half capped the spurt and made it 34-20.

Polynice hit four straight free throws to bring the Pirates within 34-24 at halftime. Seton Hall missed its last 10 shots of the half and first three after the break before Fuquan Edwin's layup 42 seconds into the second half made it 34-26.

Moore answered with five quick points sandwiched around Pope's 3-pointer to restore the double-digit lead.

Seton Hall wouldn't get within 10 points until Jamel Jackson hit a deep 3-pointer with 1:07 left that made it 60-51. After a Temple turnover, Hazell followed with another 3-pointer with 30 seconds left.

Fernandez missed a free throw and Robinson's layup on the other end cut it to 60-56 with 17.8 seconds left. After two timeouts, the Pirates had a chance to foul but let too much time run off the clock before finally fouling Fernandez with 1.9 seconds left. He made both for the final margin.

"I wouldn't say we were worried at the end," Fernandez said. "I missed the first shot of a 1-and-1 and they made deep shots at the end."

The Owls, who were third in the nation last season in scoring defense, held Seton Hall to just 30 percent shooting.

The Pirates averaged 80.1 points last season -- eighth-best in the country.

Temple, which has won three straight Atlantic 10 titles, unveiled last season's championship banner before the game. The Owls lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Cornell last season.