Temple Owls

Temple falls just short of upsetting No. 17 Cincinnati

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USA Today Images/Aaron Doster

Temple falls just short of upsetting No. 17 Cincinnati

BOX SCORE 

CINCINNATI — A blocked extra-point attempt turned into Cincinnati’s decisive points. In a season full of close escapes, this one was the most unusual.

And the most meaningful, too. The Bearcats’ year of living dangerously has culminated in the American Athletic title game.

Michael Warren II ran 13 yards for a touchdown on a cold, raw Saturday night, Coby Bryant went 98 yards with a blocked extra-point attempt and No. 17 Cincinnati held on for a 15-13 victory over Temple that clinched a spot in the league’s championship game.

The Bearcats (10-1, 7-0) secured the AAC East title and remained the only unbeaten team in league play. They would host the title game if they win next week at No. 18 Memphis (10-1, 6-1), which shares the AAC West lead.

Of course, it didn’t come easy. With these ‘Cats, it never does.

“Well, I don’t know where to start,” coach Luke Fickell said. “Another one that some way, somehow, we found a way. We showed the resiliency to get it done and found a new way tonight.”

Temple (7-4, 4-3) had won four straight against Cincinnati with its dominant defense, but couldn’t get enough out of its offense until too late on a windy, rainy night with temperatures in the 30s and snow falling in the closing minutes. Receivers from both teams had trouble catching the ball, leaving it to the running games and special teams to decide matters.

Cincinnati got the better of it both ways.

In addition to Warren’s touchdown, the Bearcats blocked the extra-point try after Re’Mahn Davis’ touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Bryant gathered the ball at the right sideline, ran across the field and went untouched for two points and a 15-6 lead.

“It was amazing!” linebacker Perry Young said. “You just love to see that.”

Anthony Russo’s 16-yard touchdown pass cut it to 15-13 with 6:33 left, but his interception with 1:19 left closed it out. Russo finished 24 of 43 for 228 yarbds.

Warren finished with 106 yards rushing. Desmond Ridder played despite a sore passing shoulder that kept him out of practice early in the week and was only 9 of 25 for 62 yards.

“Des was banged up and wasn’t able to go most of the week,” Fickell said. “As the week progressed, Des showed us something. He said he could do it, he said he could go.”

The Bearcats led 6-0 at halftime on Sam Crosa’s field goals of 36 and 37 yards, the latter set up by another weird special teams play. Temple punter Adam Barry put his right knee on the ground while fielding a low snap, turning the ball over at the 6. Ridder was sacked on first down, and the Bearcats settled for a field goal.

It was the second straight game that Cincinnati failed to get into the end zone in the opening half. They trailed 10-0 at South Florida before rallying for a 20-17 win on Crosa’s field goal on the last play.

Temple missed a field goal attempt and was stopped on fourth-and-1 from the Cincinnati 18-yard line in the second half as the Owls were eliminated from the division race.

“We’ve still got a lot left to play for this season,” coach Rod Carey said. “Eight wins is a big deal, and we’ve got a bowl yet. When you look at it holistically, we’re growing this program. That’s what I told them.”

Big picture 

Temple: The Owls came in second-to-last in the AAC in rushing and lost five yards on the ground in the first half. Jager Gardner failed to get a first down on fourth-and-1 from the Cincinnati 18 in the second half.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats have struggled offensively in their last two games, a major concern heading into the final week of the regular season. The passing game failing to get into a rhythm for the second straight game. In the last two games, Ridder is 18 of 43 for 140 yards.

Seeing Blue 

Temple’s Jadan Blue set the Temple single-season record with 80 catches, topping Zamir Cobb’s mark of 74 in 2003. Blue has 923 yards receiving. He finished with 13 catches for 120 yards, his third straight game with at least 10 catches and 100 yards.

Flags galore 

Cincinnati was penalized nine times for 74 yards, including personal fouls for roughing the passer and a horse-collar tackle. The Bearcats lead the FBS in penalties.

Up next 

Temple: Hosts UConn.

Cincinnati: At Memphis. The Tigers beat South Florida 49-10 on Saturday to maintain a share of the AAC West lead and stay in contention for a third straight appearance in the AAC title game.

Celebrating Temple upset Kansas and a sad friend was The Best Game I Ever Saw Live

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AP Images

Celebrating Temple upset Kansas and a sad friend was The Best Game I Ever Saw Live

I don’t go to a lot of games. I never did. I can’t even think of the last postseason game I saw live, which accounts for many of these strolls down memory lane. 

So while reading some of my colleagues write about the best game they’ve ever been to, I couldn’t really relate. I remember where I was when DeSean Jackson returned that punt or when Vince Carter’s baseline jumper bounced off the rim, but it wasn’t in the building to witness it.

So here it is. The best game I ever saw live was in December of 2014. I was a couple years out of college and my alma mater Temple University was hosting Kansas. A friend of mine is a gigantic Kansas fan and got tickets to see his beloved Jayhawks make light work of the Owls. He invited me and, with extremely low expectations, I joined him. 

Kansas, like always, was a top-10 team at the time. The Owls were 7-4. No. 4 Duke and No. 7 Villanova had housed Temple earlier in the season, each loss by 20 points. My friend, along with more than half of the crowd wearing blue, was treating this like an exhibition game. It was a chance to see Frank Mason and Kelly Oubre and Perry Ellis (in what I believe was his seventh season at Kansas) put on a show.

They did not.

Temple scored the first basket and never looked back. A Will Cummings three-pointer made it 12-2 before we could take off our coats. Midway through the first half, Devin Coleman came up with a steal leading to a Jaylen Bond dunk and it was 22-10. Timeout Kansas. Basketball is a game of runs and the tide can turn quickly, especially at the college level, so the Kansas crowd remained calm.  My friend was annoyed by his team’s start but panic had yet to set in.

I was all smiles. This was fun.

Temple took a 10-point lead into the half. That was nothing for a blue-blooded squad like KU. In the second half, the better team will emerge, my friend mumbled to himself.

But the second half was much more of the same. Temple was hitting everything and by the under-12 timeout the lead had swelled to 17. The Owls shot 58 percent from the field, compared to an abysmal 32 percent by Kansas. A few minutes later, Jesse Morgan knocked down a three and it was Temple, yes Temple, who held a 20-point lead. Timeout Kansas.

To be honest, I don’t remember much of the game. I spent most of the night watching the joy evaporate from my friend’s face and taunting the surrounding Kansas fans looking on in disgust. The final seconds ticked away on a 77-52 blowout and the student section stormed the court. Did I join it? You bet I did. I remember being on the court, surrounded by kids acting like it was time to cut down the nets. And I remember looking to the section where we were sitting and seeing my poor friend who just wanted to go home, standing alone looking so very sad. It was the best.

Maybe my behavior was petty at the time and maybe reliving it now is too. But hey, I don’t go to a lot of games.

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Turnovers, poor 3-point shooting hurt Temple in loss to Missouri

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USA Today Images

Turnovers, poor 3-point shooting hurt Temple in loss to Missouri

BOX SCORE 

PHILADELPHIA — For Dru Smith and Missouri, it’s been hard not to dwell on a stunning home loss to Charleston Southern earlier this week.

Only thing to do was take it out on the next team on the schedule.

Javon Pickett scored a season-high 16 points off the bench and Missouri snapped a three-game losing streak, beating Temple 64-54 on Saturday night.

Smith added 12 points and six rebounds for the visiting Tigers (5-4), whose loss to Charleston Southern on Tuesday was one of the worst of coach Cuonzo Martin’s tenure.

“Obviously it’s been on our minds,” Smith said. “It’s something we had to learn from. We had to move on. There’s a lot of season left in front of us. I think we did a good job today using that as fuel and coming out and playing much better.”

Quinton Rose led the way for Temple (6-2) with 16 points, 10 of which came in the first half. The Owls committed a season-high 19 turnovers, including an overthrown pass in transition with a minute to go to dash any comeback hopes. They also shot 2 for 21 from 3-point range.

“They didn’t really pressure us; we were just careless with the ball,” Rose said. “Maybe it is a lack of focus. We’ll figure it out.”

Trailing by six early in the second half, the Owls reeled off the next 12 points to take their first lead since they were up 4-2. The run began with a Monty Scott 3-pointer and included a Jake Forrester dunk that electrified a previously frustrated Liacouras Center crowd.

Forrester, an Indiana transfer who had to sit out the first four games until getting cleared to play by the NCAA, finished with 11 points in his first home game for the Owls.

Pickett helped Missouri fight back to tie the game at 47-47 with eight minutes remaining, and the Tigers took the lead 53-52 on a Jeremiah Tillman transition dunk with four minutes to go. Mark Smith’s 3-pointer put the Tigers ahead 57-52 with 2:53 left, and Xavier Pinson helped close out the win with a driving layup in the final minute.

The Tigers outscored the Owls 15-2 over the final six-and-a-half minutes.

“I think we’re as good as any team in the SEC,” Martin said. “But you have to do it on the floor every night. It’s one thing for me to believe it. They have to understand and believe it. And this was a great win for us against a very talented team.”

Temple had more turnovers (11) than made field goals (eight) in the first half to fall behind 33-27 at halftime. No one on the Owls besides Rose scored until Forrester hit a free throw more than eight minutes into the contest.

Can't open the Pickett fence 

Martin credited Pickett for putting the defensive clamps on Rose, Temple’s top scorer, in the second half.

“I wouldn’t be shocked if he spends 10 years in the NBA,” the Missouri coach said of Rose. “And I thought Javon really embraced that challenge. He’s not an easy guy to defend.”

Martin also praised the energy Pickett brings off the bench, which is a role the sophomore says has helped him.

“I feel more relaxed,” said Pickett, who started 31 games as a freshman last season. “Coach all the time is telling me to be myself. I feel like I’m starting to be myself more.”

Big picture

Missouri: The Tigers avoided the slow starts that had been plaguing them, leading for most of the first half before staging their winning rally midway through the second half. They also scored a measure of revenge on an Owls squad that beat them in a thriller last year at Mizzou Arena, 79-77.

Temple: Despite Saturday’s setback, the Owls are showing promise under first-year coach Aaron McKie, who replaced Fran Dunphy. Their only losses have come to power conference teams, No. 3 Maryland and now Missouri, while they’ve beaten another Southeastern Conference squad, Texas A&M, and also Southern California on the road.

Up next 

Missouri: The Tigers return home to face Southern Illinois on Dec. 15.

Temple: The Owls host Saint Joseph’s on Tuesday in one of Philadelphia’s most intense rivalry games.