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Temple's NCAA tourney hopes take a crushing blow

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Temple's NCAA tourney hopes take a crushing blow


Whether it was simply coachspeak or the dawning realization that his team now has only one entry point into the NCAA Tournament, Fran Dunphy made a short but forceful declaration following Temple’s 80-59 loss to Houston on Sunday.

“We’ve got to win every game we play from here on in,” the Owls head coach said. “That’s the only thing we can do.”

Indeed, at this point, anything short of a perfect run through the American Athletic Conference tournament — which begins on March 8th following the Owls’ final three regular-season games — will likely relegate Temple to the NIT or worse.

The Cougars (21-5, 11-3 American) made sure of that by completely dominating the Owls (15-12 7-8) on their home court to suck the life out of the Liacouras Center — and Temple’s fading NCAA hopes.

“We never let them breathe,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. 

Houston has now won five straight to join nationally ranked Wichita State and Cincinnati atop the conference, making it increasingly likely that only those three squads will represent the American at the Big Dance. 

Temple, despite a conference record hovering around .500, had been making a nice push to join the party thanks to a potent strength of schedule, a couple of impressive November non-conference wins over Auburn and Clemson, and a recent five-game winning streak that included an overtime upset of Wichita State.

But after losing to the Shockers in a rematch on Thursday, the Owls likely needed to win out and then win at least a couple of more games in the AAC tournament to have a realistic shot of an at-large NCAA berth.

Houston ruined that by scoring the game’s first 15 points and never taking its foot off the gas from there en route to Sunday’s lopsided win.

“I think we came out really flat,” said Nate Pierre-Louis, who led the Owls with 13 points after watching the poor start from the bench. “I think we came out underestimating them. And they came out guns blazing, making everything. If we want to push forward, we can’t start out like that at all.”

Dunphy, who could be feeling some heat if Temple misses the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in five years, had a hard time explaining what went wrong. But he didn’t make excuses, whether it was the team having trouble with its charter flight leaving Wichita (“You figure it out, suck it up and do a better job”) or bouncing back in general from an emotionally draining game there (“[Houston] had a great win at home against Cincinnati, so they were probably more susceptible to a letdown than we were”).

He also didn’t hide from the fact that there wasn’t enough effort from his players.

“We were a step slow all day long,” Dunphy said. “We had decent rest, we worked hard enough, [assistant coach] Chris Clark had us very well prepared for the x-and-o piece. We were just slow all day.”

In no way was that more magnified than in Houston’s 53-22 rebounding advantage, including a 17-5 edge on the offensive end. The Cougars' 53 rebounds matched a Liacouras Center record.

When asked about that, Sampson pointed out that he recently learned his team was among the shortest in the nation. Clearly, though, their hunger makes up for that fact.

“I guess we’re short but it never crossed my mind that it mattered,” the Houston coach said. “What’s that old saying? If size were important, what happened to the dinosaurs?”

Dunphy had a less philosophical (and probably more scientifically accurate) approach to the rebounding discrepancy.

“We were just not disciplined enough on the rebounding side,” the Temple coach said. “They played very well, and obviously we didn’t play very well at all.”

Sadly for Temple fans, the Owls have had a few games this year when they didn’t play well. They’ve also had games where they’ve looked like world-beaters, making this a particularly maddening season.

So whether the Owls close the regular season strong and make a run in the conference tournament or crash out in the first round is anyone’s guess, really. But even after Sunday’s brutal loss, sophomore Quinton Rose forecasted some optimism as the up-and-down 2017-18 campaign winds down.

“I think we’re at our best when we have our backs against the wall,” said Rose, who scored 13 on Sunday. “So I have no doubt we can make a good run."

Temple put back on its heels in AAC tourney ouster

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Temple put back on its heels in AAC tourney ouster


ORLANDO, Fla. -- No. 11 Wichita State has advanced to the semifinals of American Athletic Conference tournament.


Landry Shamet scored 24 points, Rashard Kelly had 16 and the Shockers held off pesky Temple for an 89-81 victory on Friday night.

Wichita State (25-6) also got a strong performance from its reserves, including 13 points from Austin Reaves. Next up is the winner of the Houston-Central Florida game.

The Shockers won two of three against the Owls this season, and the outcome was in doubt every time.

"We certainly do bring out the best in them," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. "The bottom line is that they make a lot of shots against us, but we usually do get great contributions from our bench. We go 10 or 11 deep and that's a good thing."

Wichita State led 78-75 with 2:23 left and closed it out with 11 foul shots.

Temple stayed close with its perimeter shooting. The Owls went 11 of 24 from 3-pointg range and shot 50.9 percent from the field overall.

Quinton Rose led Temple (17-15) with 25 points. Shizz Alston and Josh Brown each had 15 points for the Owls, who didn't have enough depth to keep pace with Wichita State in the final minutes.

"I loved our fight, I loved how we were hanging with them each and every moment," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "I think late we just needed another basket, another stop, but they're a really good basketball team. They made some veteran plays at the right time."

The Shockers were clinging to a 63-61 lead with eight minutes to play when Reaves, fellow reserve Markis McDuffie and Kelly powered a key 13-3 run. The three combined for 11 points in the surge and helped cool off Rose while leading Wichita State to a 76-64 advantage with just over four minutes remaining.

Shaquille Morris made two foul shots to put the Shockers up 55-45 early in the second half, but the Owls rallied behind Rose. The sophomore guard scored 12 of his team's next 14 points to cut the deficit to 61-59 with 9:10 left.

"Quinton did a great job in that stretch and got us where we needed to be," Dunphy said. "But again, we needed a little better effort at the defensive end and just be a little smarter."

Big picture
Temple: The Owls had some nice early season wins -- Wisconsin, Clemson, Auburn, South Carolina -- but need to take the next step in the conference season. The Owls were only 8-10 in AAC play.

Wichita State: The Shockers are aching for a rematch with top-seeded Cincinnati, but first they'll have to get past the winner of the Houston-UCF game and they've struggled with both. Houston handed Wichita State its worst loss of the season, and UCF took the Shockers to overtime before losing in the second-to-last game of the regular season. Wichita State will need another good night from its reserves to reach the finals.

Temple narrowly avoids disaster

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Temple narrowly avoids disaster


ORLANDO, Fla. -- Shizz Alston Jr. hit three free throws in the final minute and Temple avoided being upset by a lower seed in the first round of the American Athletic Conference Tournament for the second year in a row, holding off Tulane 82-77 Thursday night.

Temple, the No. 7 seed, advances to face second-seeded Wichita State on Friday in the tourney quarterfinals.

Last year the eighth-seeded Owls were upset by No. 9 seed ECU.

Nate Pierre-Louis made a free throw with 1:01 left to give Temple a 77-71 lead, but the 10th-seeded Green Wave roared back behind two Cameron Reynolds 3-pointers sandwiched around an Alston free throw to make it 78-77 with :37 remaining. Alston was fouled with :16 left and hit both free throws to make it 80-77, and Caleb Daniels missed a 3 with :05 left that would have tied the game. Josh Brown added two free throws with a second left to set the final score.

Obi Enechionyia led the Owls (17-14) with 19 points. Alston added 17 points and dished eight assists and Brown added 15 points, six boards, three assists and two steals.

Reynolds hit 3 of 7 from distance and paced Tulane (14-17) with 22 points. Melvin Frazier added 15 points and Samir Sehic and Ray Ona Embo added 11 and 10 points, respectively.