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CBK Five Spot: Jaylen Bond driving turnaround at Temple

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Updated 10 months ago on
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PHILADELPHIA — Temple coach Fran Dunphy can sum up his team’s turnaround in one word: defense.

Ask him what’s powered the Owls’ change, and his answer doubles in length: “Jaylen Bond.”

Bond isn’t the only new face on the roster, but he’s certainly helped push the pendulum for Temple, which went from a 9-22 team last year to one that’s 19-7 overall and 10-3 in American Athletic Conference play heading into the biggest week of the regular season. And as Dunphy knew, the swift rise out of the program’s worst season in its 119-year history boiled down to what his team is doing to its opponents.

And it all starts with the 6-foot-7, 250-pound redshirt junior, a Philadelphia suburbs native who’s in his first season of eligibility with TU after spending his first two years at Texas. He set the tone again on Saturday as the Owls won their seventh game in a row, grabbing 16 rebounds and helping hold East Carolina to 35 percent from the floor in a 63-55 win.

“His versatility, defensively … he plays the big guys very well, he plays the guards well when he has to switch out, he’s doing a really good job defensively,” Dunphy said. “And he’s a terrific rebounder as well.”

With five games left in the regular season, Temple seems to be currently in good position on the NCAA Tournament bubble for what would be Dunphy’s seventh trip to the dance in his nine years on North Broad St.

They’re 13-0 with a full lineup, not including a 6-4 start before mid-season transfers — senior guard Jesse Morgan (UMass) and junior guard Devin Coleman (Clemson) — became eligible and the 0-3 stretch in January when senior point guard Will Cummings suffered an ankle injury.

To prove they’re for real, it would be helpful to take care of business this week, with road games against the two teams ahead of them in the AAC standings — Southern Methodist on Thursday and Tulsa on Sunday. Both teams dealt Temple home defeats last month, but that was with a team that was at less than full capacity.

“This week is two games away from home against the two teams that are in front of us and that we lost to at home a couple of weeks ago,” Dunphy said. “And so an opportunity to see our growth, to see if it’s real, is in front of us and a challenge of playing two really good basketball programs.”

If Temple comes away 2-0, they’re almost certainly dancing. At 1-1 or 0-2, they have to take care of business against East Carolina, Houston and Connecticut to close out the season and pick up a win or two at the AAC tournament in Hartford to feel more comfortable.

The situation is good, but there’s work to be done.

“We talk about what it’s like to have your name called on Selection Sunday and have it be the best feeling in all of college basketball, knowing that you’re in the NCAA tournament,” Dunphy said. “We would love to have that happen, but we have a long way to go.”

Five teams better than their record

1. Oklahoma (17-8, 8-5 Big 12). Aside from a loss to Creighton in their second game, the Sooners don’t really have a bad defeat this season. Four of the five conference losses have come on the road against tough teams in Kansas, Baylor, West Virginia and Kansas State, and they’re 9-4 against top 50 teams in the RPI. Junior guard Buddy Hield (17.4 points per game) leads three other teams in double figures but where this team really shines is defensively. They’re ninth in the country in field-goal percentage defense (37.5 percent).

2. Arizona State (13-12, 5-7 Pac-12). The triple-overtime home loss to Lehigh in December wasn’t great, but they only lost by one at Texas A&M and were within five of both Alabama and Maryland on a neutral court in November; their overall strength of schedule is 33rd in the country, and they don’t have a loss to a team below 150 in the RPI. The midseason addition of redshirt sophomore forward Savon Goodman has helped, especially when he goes for 19 points and 13 rebounds in a win at Washington or 15 and nine in a win over Arizona.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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