At the beginning of the second half, senior guard Shizz Alston Jr. threw an alley-oop to sophomore guard Nate Pierre-Louis.
Pierre-Louis’ emphatic dunk gave the Owls a six-point cushion. Temple (20-7, 10-4 American Athletic Conference) would never lose its lead, defeating Tulsa 84-73 (16-12, 6-9 The American) Saturday at the Liacouras Center.
Earlier this month, Tulsa defeated Temple 76-58. In that game, Alston and junior guard Quinton Rose combined for just 26 points, and Tulsa senior forward DaQuan Jeffries scored 13 points in 24 minutes.
On Saturday, Jeffries, who leads the team in scoring, rebounding and steals, was sidelined due to a concussion.
Alston and Rose, the Owls’ two leading scorers, combined for 47 points on Saturday. Twenty-nine of their 47 points came in the second half when Temple outscored Tulsa 53-43.
Alston scored 24 points on 9-of-19 shooting from the field and was 4-of-9 from 3-point range. He added seven assists to his stat line. Rose scored 23 points of his own and was 7-of-13 from the field. He was perfect from the free throw line, going 7-for-7 to which coach Fran Dunphy called a “nice treat.”
Tulsa freshman forward Martins Igbanu and sophomore guard Curran Scott each scored 15 points.
About halfway through the first half, Temple led 20-10, but Tulsa went on a 20-11 run to cut Temple’s lead to just 31-30 before halftime.
Temple was called for 10 team fouls in the first half which contributed to Tulsa’s run as they went 11-of-11 from the free throw line in the first half.
In the second half, Temple’s offense came out strong and stayed strong. The Owls scored 53 points and went 20-for-34 from the field. Temple also went 6-of-13 from beyond the arc.
“Once we went on a run we couldn’t let up,” Alston said. “We couldn’t let them back in the game again. We were up by a lot in the first half but just let them back in. We just had to smother once we got our shots to fall.”
Alston led the way by pushing the ball up the court and penetrating Tulsa’s zone. He either kicked the ball out to his open teammates or took the ball to the basket himself.
Rose received many of those passes when he was on the baseline, driving the ball for a layup or dunk.
“Rose and [Alston] are as good as there are in the country in terms of your guards and in the backcourt,” Tulsa coach Frank Haith said. “They took the game over in the second half.”
With a 66-59 lead, Temple went on a 12-2 run, bringing its lead to 78-61 with about four minutes left. From there Temple coasted to a win.
“In the second half I thought our offense was very good,” Dunphy said. “We moved the ball well, and we didn’t stand around as much. There were opportunities that [Alston] took on his own and would suddenly split double teams and get into the teeth of the defense and make plays.”
Temple has four games left in the season. On Tuesday, the Owls will play Memphis (16-11, 8-6), who they defeated 86-76 on Jan. 24.
“That’s a big game. They like to play fast,” Alston said. “But teams that play fast, they don’t like to get attacked fast, so we have to push the ball up the floor and hit the open guys early when we’re in transition.
“We’re going to have our work cut out for us,” he added.