With the clock running down at the end of the first half, freshman guard Alani Moore II missed a midrange pull-up jumper but collected his own rebound. Moore passed under the basket to freshman guard Quinton Rose who made a layup at the buzzer to tie the game.
The Owls (11-10, 2-6 American Athletic Conference) outscored Memphis by 10 in the opening minutes of the second half and led by as many as 14 points in their 77-66 home win on Wednesday night.
“It wasn’t a matter of energy, they just made shots to start that second half and we didn’t,” said Tigers’ coach Tubby Smith, whose team’s three-game winning streak came to an end. “That was huge. When you give up 54 percent, 53 percent and 46 percent from threes, it’s going to be a long night. I thought we had some real defensive breakdowns was the biggest problem.”
Temple went up by 10 with 16 minutes, 23 seconds left after quick ball movement set up a corner 3-pointer by Moore. The Owls went on a 12-2 run that started with a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Shizz Alston Jr. with 19:04 left. He made a layup and a 3-pointer to score eight straight points on the run. Alston scored 15 of his 22 points in the second half.
Alston has scored 20 or more points for the third straight game, following back-to-back career-high 25 point performances in the Owls’ last two contests.
“I had been relatively quiet in the first half, so I wanted to come out and be aggressive, make a statement and try to go on a little run,” Alston said.
After taking their 10-point lead, the Owls went the next 4:04 without a basket before back-to-back 3-pointers by junior forward Obi Enechionyia and Alston to put the Owls up by 12 with 11:35 left.
Enechionyia had to come out of the game with 9:02 left after he committed his fourth foul. He didn’t return until the 3:47 mark. Enechionyia finished with seven points and three rebounds.
Temple eventually went up by 14 with 6:31 left. The Owls went on a 10-2 run starting at the 8:32 mark. Redshirt-senior swingman Daniel Dingle started it with a jumper and ended it with a layup and converted free throw. He finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.
Memphis wouldn’t go away. The Tigers went on a 7-2 run to cut their deficit to seven points with 3:47 left. The Tigers implemented a full-court press, needing to overcome their eight-point deficit with less than two minutes left. Freshman guard Quinton Rose fed the ball to senior forward Mark Williams in the right corner. Williams drove baseline and made a layup to put the Owls up by 10.
Williams had a season-high 15 points on his birthday to go with four rebounds, four assists and no turnovers in the win, providing a boost off the bench with Enechionyia in foul trouble.
“Mark did a terrific job,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “He made a couple of shots, made a big three in the first half, 6-for-6 at the foul line helped us immeasurably. Then he had another great putback that was really important for us.”
Williams and Rose scored all 20 of Temple’s bench points. The layup at the first-half buzzer was Rose’s first field goal of the game, as he became the last of the seven Owls who played in the first half to score. Dingle led the Owls with eight points in the first 20 minutes, while Rose had seven rebounds and three assists.
Memphis redshirt-junior guard Markel Crawford led all scorers in the first half with 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field. He hit a 3-pointer that capped off an 8-0 run that put the Tigers up 13-10 early and made two baskets in a row to put Memphis up 26-23 with 3:54 left in the first half. Crawford only scored four points in the second half.
Temple only allowed 13 points to Memphis sophomore forward Dedric Lawson, who entered play averaging 19.8 points and 10.2 rebounds.
Dunphy said four players, Enechionyia, Williams, Dingle and sophomore center Ernest Aflakpui, guarded Lawson, with Dingle guarding him for most of the second half.
“I thought they all did what we asked them to do [which] is try to deny him the ball and he’s such a good player,” he said. “I think the thing that I was most pleased with that he didn’t have any assists. He’s got a really good assist to turnover record going for him. …I thought we limited him pretty well, but they all did a really good job of understanding how difficult the assignment was and following through.”
Memphis shot 40 percent from the field in the game, but only made five of its 19 3-point attempts. Sophomore guard Jeremiah Martin led the Tigers with 16 points.
Dunphy and his staff wore white sneakers in honor of Coaches vs. Cancer Suits And Sneakers Week. They’ll do the same in Houston on Saturday when the Owls will try for their third conference win.
“It was a big game, statement game,” Dingle said. “A lot of people counted us out, but we believed in one another, coaching staff. The fans, they were, I didn’t think anybody was going to be in the stands today because of the losing streak that we went on but they did a great job with their energy. We just needed this. We’re headed on the road to play Houston and Tulane and I think this is giving us momentum.”
Evan Easterling can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Evan_Easterling. Follow The Temple News on Twitter @TheTempleNews and @TTN_Sports.