Mark Williams’ hot hand leads Temple past Penn

Mark Williams used to do it all the time when he came to North Broad Street.

He would use a spin move, then fire a shot with his left hand. It’s not a high-percentage shot by any means, and it’s one Temple head coach Fran Dunphy says only falls in the low teens percentage-wise. It is also one Dunphy has tried to eliminate from Williams’ repertoire.

“Coach Dunphy got me away from it,” Williams said. “But today, I was just feeling it.”

He made it and seven others, as the sophomore finished with a career-high 24 points and Temple snapped its two-game losing streak with a 76-67 win over Penn (0-4) Tuesday night at the Liacouras Center in the first Big 5 matchup of the season. The Owls are now 3-2 on the season.

“I was a little surprised at that to be honest,” Dunphy said of Williams’ one-handed shot. “I was grateful, thankful on this holiday season. It’s probably not a good shot, but it went in tonight so I won’t yell at him too much. Maybe when we watch the film I’ll go, ‘Yo, what’s up with this?’”

The 6-foot-8 forward scored his 24 points on 8 of 12 shooting and went 6 of 7 from the charity stripe. He was 2 for 5 from three-point range and pulled down five rebounds. As a team, Temple was 6 for 24 from beyond the arc.

“He felt good about shooting that three and made a couple of threes that bailed us out,” Dunphy said. “He had a couple inside plays that were very important for us. He made a baseline jumper in the second half. He did some pretty good things on the offensive end. I was happy for him.”

Penn’s game plan was no different than any other of Temple’s opponents: Pack the paint, play zone and force the Owls to take contested shots. It just so happened Williams had a special night.

“To his credit, he stepped up and made some big ones for them,” Penn head coach Jerome Allen said of Williams. “I thought the finish he had with his left hand was a tough finish. They needed an offensive boost and he was there to deliver it.”

Jaylen Bond came off the bench in his first appearance at home as a Temple Owl. Bond missed the first two games with a sprained ankle, but made his season debut in Friday’s 74-54 loss to No. 4 Duke in Brooklyn. He finished with just two points, but he made a difference defensively.

The Plymouth-Whitemarsh product finished with four rebounds, three steals and a block. He had two steals and a block at halftime, with one of those steals being a key moment in the first half.

With 1:46 left, Bond intercepted a Penn pass and pushed it to Will Cummings, who drove the length of the floor to put Temple up 40-32. While the Owls only trailed 29 seconds, Penn battled hard in the first half to make it a game, tying it a few times.

Just a few possessions before, Penn was within four. A couple free throws by Josh Brown, who finished with 11 points, an one-handed putback on an offensive rebound by Obi Enechionyia and Cummings’ layup off the steal helped the Owls enter the break with a seven-point lead.

“He had three big steals for us tonight,” Dunphy said of Bond. “He stepped over, or around (Darien) Nelson-Henry and made some really nice plays on the defensive end. That’s where he’s going to make his money, playing defense and getting out and running the floor. The offense will come.”

Bond missed his first five shots of the game and two free throws before finally scoring his only two points of the game in the second half with 3:23 seconds left in the game.

For the Owls, it’ll take time to work Bond into the mix. He missed all of last season because of NCAA rules after transferring to Temple from Texas, and then sprained his ankle. He hasn’t played a lot of basketball in the last year, so it’s process of developing chemistry with the team.

“I feel like it’s day by day, we’re still learning each other,” Cummings, who finished with 16 points on 6 of 11 shooting, said. “I feel like we’re getting better.”

As for Penn, the loss now puts the Quakers at 0-4 this season with losses to Delaware State, Rider and Lafayette. The Quakers next play Saturday at 4 p.m. in New York against Wagner. But for Allen, Tuesday was Penn’s most important game of the year.

“It was the most important game of the year only because it was the next game on the schedule,” Allen said. “We just try to take a workman’s attitude to the schedule and not get ahead of ourselves.

“I’m from Philly, I’ve watched, not only as a player, as a fan and as a coach, just the interaction on and off the floor with this entity that we call the Big 5. It’s special because it’s special. It’s special because it’s the next game. But it’s not necessarily about me.

“We’re trying to win basketball games. That being said, we’re going to dissect it like we did the previous three games and try to use it as a tool to get better.”

*Story originally published on on Nov. 25, 2014.