Shizz Alston Jr. overheard University of Georgia coach Tom Crean and made a quick change to Temple University’s defense.
After Temple turned the ball over attempting to inbound the ball with 27 seconds remaining, Georgia called a timeout to draw up its final play. Coach Fran Dunphy told his team to switch on a screen. But coming out of the timeout, Alston heard Crean’s plan to feed the ball to the post and told sophomore guard Nate Pierre-Louis not to switch.
With six seconds left, senior center Ernest Aflakpui forced Bulldogs senior forward Derek Ogbeide to miss the potential game-tying shot and grabbed his ninth rebound. Alston then made two free throws to secure the Owls’ 81-77 victory against Georgia (1-1) at the Liacouras Center on Tuesday.
“It just shows on how this team is coming together as a unit,” Pierre-Louis said. “We listen to [Alston] and the coaches to put ourselves in the best position to close out games. …We need to because closing out games is big for us this season.”
Alston and junior guard Quinton Rose led all scorers with 25 points each to propel Temple to its third win of the season. Alston now has 1,014 career points after becoming the 53rd player in program history to reach 1,000 points 1:08 into the second half.
After Friday’s 83-67 victory against the University of Detroit Mercy, junior guard Alani Moore II said the Owls need to have better starts if they are to be successful. Moore, who finished the night with eight points, hit a 3-point shot with 12:21 remaining in the first half. The Owls outscored Georgia 30-20 to close the half.
At halftime on Tuesday, Temple led, 45-34, behind 14 first-half points from Rose.
Pierre-Louis contributed three rebounds, two steals and nine of his 16 points in the first half. He said Temple’s start against Georgia is how the team expects to start every game.
“When we play other teams, I think we’ll be able to win by more,” Alston said. “They were a little athletic and long and gave us some trouble a little bit, but going up 11 at halftime is what we are looking to do mostly every game.”
Georgia outscored Temple by nine points and had 7-0 and 7-2 runs in the final 10 minutes to decrease Temple’s lead to five points or fewer.
On Friday, Temple’s players and coaches said the rebound margin would be a point of emphasis for its matchup against Georgia. The Bulldogs outrebounded Temple by 18 in an 84-66 defeat of the Owls on Dec. 22, 2017, in Athens, Georgia. Last season, Temple lost the rebound margin in 22 of its 33 games.
On Tuesday, the Bulldogs outrebounded Temple 39-32, but the Owls grabbed two more offensive rebounds. Alston said Temple has done a better job of rebounding this season because the team is showing “more effort, more determination, more fight,” to rebound the ball compared to last season.
“[Rebounding] was our main focus,” Rose said. “We knew we had to limit them to one shot per possession. We were definitely good with that.”
Georgia sophomore forward Nicolas Claxton was the tallest player on the Bulldogs’ roster at 6 feet, 11 inches. Dunphy said he wanted Temple to get Claxton in foul trouble early to make it difficult for him to get a rhythm in the game.
In the Owls’ game against Georgia last season, Claxton scored 14 points in 18 minutes off the bench points. On Tuesday, he scored seven points in 21 minutes.
Looking to remain undefeated, Temple will take on Loyola University Maryland (1-2) at the Liacouras Center on Friday night.
“The hope is that you could win some games early. …We got to play our best basketball each time out,” Dunphy said. “We were in this position last year. We were 3-0 coming to our fourth game, and we weren’t successful in that fourth game. We need to do that on Friday.”