This season has been really ugly on so many different fronts. Fans have lost faith in the Temple basketball team and it seemed like the team did too after getting blown out by Louisville at home just two days before.
Everyone counted them out for the rest of the season, but the team had other plans. The Owls knocked off Larry Brown’s 23rd ranked SMU Mustangs 71-64.
It was a team win, but Dalton Pepper was the standout star for Temple. Pepper totaled 24 points and was the game’s leading scorer. He was one of five Owls in double figures including Quenton Decosey and Will Cummings who both scored 13.
The stats don’t do the Owls justice, though. The real reason behind the victory was how much heart the team showed and how much they hustled.
Rebounding is where that was shown. The Owls out-rebounded Brown’s Mustangs 38-25, and 12-4 on offensive rebounds. Interestingly enough, the Owls did this without leading rebounder Anthony Lee, who is second in the conference in boards.
Temple did still have some trouble scoring, shooting under 40% for the game.
Defense had been something Temple has been struggling with all season, but defended very well today. SMU is not a powerhouse offensively, they are way more of a defensive team, but the Owls still did a good job of slowing down the offense. They held the Mustangs without a basket in six of the final seven minutes.
SMU’s free throw struggles attributed to that.
Many times in the second half, SMU had the chance to cut the lead at the foul line and continuously missed. They were 11 for 21 in the second half and 14 for 26 for the game from the charity stripe.
The Mustangs jumped out to an 11-2 lead and it really took the air out of the Liacouras Center crowd. Temple fans have seen their team blown out on many different occasions over the past few weeks, and the way this one began; it looked like the game was going that way again.
That lead did not last long as the Owls rallied back to make it a four point game behind threes from Pepper and Decosey. The Owls closed out the half on a 17-6 run after being down seven with 6:38 to play in the half, giving Temple a four point halftime lead.
SMU came back and eventually took a four point lead in the second half, before Temple head coach Fran Dunphy called a timeout. The Owls finally took back the lead on a Pepper jumper with just under 13 to go in the game.
Temple had a three point lead with about four minutes left in the game, and that is when the foul shooting fell apart for SMU. They missed seven consecutive free throws and then before they knew it were down nine with about 30 seconds to go and could not close the gap.
Temple fans should not look too much into this. While it may look like Temple is poised for a late season run to get fans excited for next year (that is about all a late season run can do for this team), this win isn’t incredibly impressive.
Fran Dunphy did out coach someone who took a team to the NBA Finals (us Philly fans still love Brown for that), but this SMU team has shown to be weak on the road. At home, they have beaten conference powers like UConn, Memphis, and Cincinnati, but they have losses to Cincinnati, Louisville, USF, and now Temple on the road. The Mustangs have yet to prove they can beat a tough team away from the Moody Coliseum.
While many fans hope this is the start of a win streak, the Owls still have three really tough games ahead of them. They play UConn at home Thursday before heading to Memphis, and then Louisville next week.