Temple’s long-awaited home opener finally came and went, and the Owls were able to welcome their fans back into the Liacouras Center with open arms on Wednesday night.
The Owls, fueled by stifling defense late, held off the Wisconsin Badgers, 59-55. Shizz Alston Jr. sealed the game with four free throws.
Alston finished with a total of 22 points to lead Temple. Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ led all scorers with 23 points.
Obi Enechionyia added four blocks, including two of them in the final two minutes to help the Owls close out the Big Ten opponent.
Temple moved to 5-2 with the win, while Wisconsin dropped to 4-6.
• After going back and forth for 38 minutes of the contest, the game was decided by clutch free throws from Alston. In fact, Alston has now made 52 consecutive free throws dating back to 2016, setting the all-time mark at Temple. The previous record was 49 straight by Lynn Greer. Alston went 6 of 6 at the charity stripe, four of them big ones in the final 1:09 of regulation.
• Coming into the game, Happ, a third-team All-American last season, was the only player among Power Six conferences averaging at least 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists per game.
• From the beginning of the game, Happ made his presence felt and showed why he is one of the best bigs in the country. He was dominant on the glass, in the paint and in the pick-and-roll game. Happ (23 points, six rebounds and three assists) also showed his mid-range game, as well, and was the only Badger in double-figure scoring. Wisconsin looked to him early and often in the post, and Happ took advantage of the Owls' inexperienced bigs in Damion Moore and Ernest Aflakpui.
• Temple definitely missed Josh Brown’s leadership last season. The redshirt senior missed a majority of the 2016-17 season after an Achilles injury kept him on the sidelines. With him on the court, the Owls look more organized and composed. He is a glue player that makes everyone around him better and his experience is vital for a team made up of nine underclassmen.
• Moore provided a jolt for the Owls when he entered the game at the 11-minute mark of the first half. His two quick buckets helped give the Owls a 23-20 lead at the 7:28 mark. Moore is just two games removed from his double-double against South Carolina in which he finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
• The Owls had to take a lot of shots at the end of the shot clock but Alston made two jump shots and Enechionyia connected on a three-pointer. Converting these situations helped the Owls hold a 31-28 lead at halftime.
• With 16:35 left in the second half, Brown took a shot to the face, specifically the nose area, from Wisconsin guard Brevin Pritzl, and was holding his head back as he walked to the sidelines. Alston converted both free throws from the Flagrant 1 foul. Brown would return at the 10:57 mark.
• Temple relied heavily on three-point shots. However, they ultimately fell flat from long range, making only 3 out of 14.
• Alston showed his shooting ability from mid-range and from inside the paint. The Owls have quite a backcourt in Brown and Alston, and all of Temple’s guards have solid ability to impact the game on both sides of the floor. The Owls will be in good hands once Brown graduates, with Alston (junior), Quinton Rose (sophomore) and Alani Moore II (sophomore) in the fold.
• Rose (nine points) exhibited why he is one of the most exciting players in the Big 5. His athleticism is what stands out, as well as how strong he is off the dribble. He took a steal and slammed in a two-handed dunk to electrify the Liacouras Center. At 6-foot-8 for a guard, Rose is extremely talented with a bright future.
• Temple’s student section was loud and engaged, and because of overflow, the Owls had to send some to the upper level of the arena. They had to be loud since Wisconsin fans surrounded the majority of the Liacouras Center and had a large presence.
• This is Temple’s first victory over Wisconsin since Dec. 3, 2003, when the Owls won, 70-67, in double overtime.
• Temple’s next game will be at the Liacouras Center against Big 5 rival St. Joe’s on Saturday. Wisconsin’s next game, also Saturday, is at home against Marquette.