With three minutes remaining in the game, guards Shizz Alston Jr. and Nate Pierre-Louis hit clutch 3-point shots on back-to-back possessions to pull ahead of Southern Methodist.
After sophomore Pierre-Louis’ 3-pointer, sophomore forward Justyn Hamilton recorded a steal and passed the ball to senior Alston, who got fouled with a little more than a minute left in the game. Alston made two free throws to cap an 8-0 Temple University men’s basketball run.
The Owls’ (18-7, 8-4 The American) run catapulted them to an 82-74 victory against Southern Methodist (12-12, 4-8 American Athletic Conference) on Wednesday at the Liacouras Center.
Alston scored 16 of Temple’s final 24 points to secure the Owls’ victory, finishing the game with 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting.
“I didn’t realize I was scoring that many in a row,” Alston said. “I was just picking my spots, they left me open a couple of times. I was able to make some plays late.”
SMU’s zone defense allowed Alston to take advantage of one-on-one matchups. He made seven of his nine second-half shots.
“When [Alston] hits one or two shots in a row, its over,” Pierre-Louis said. “I’m looking for him, if he’s open, I’m passing it to him.”
Alston finished the night 3-of-8 from beyond the arc, marking his 36th straight game with a 3-point make. This tied Alston with former Temple guard Lynn Greer for the second-longest streak with a 3-pointer made in program history.
Pierre-Louis finished second on the team with 15 points. Junior guard Quinton Rose contributed 15 points with 12 of them coming in the first half.
Coach Fran Dunphy noted that SMU plays a zone defense like Temple’s opponent on Feb. 9, Tulsa, but Tulsa has more man-defense principles. Temple made just 30.6 percent of its shots in a loss to Tulsa.
To shoot more efficiently, Dunphy wanted the Owls to attack the Mustangs’ defense with mid-range jump shots and driving to the basket. Temple made 42.7 percent of its shots on Wednesday, including 25-of-52 2-point shots.
“We can drive it against zones better than others,” Dunphy said. “We did that fairly well tonight, we got some easy baskets. … We can drive it and we can get the ball inside more. It’s always nice to have a guy like [Alston], who is so good with the basketball in the middle of the court.”
SMU outrebounded Temple 43-42 and had 44 points in the paint. However, Temple’s rebounding was still effective against SMU, which averages four more rebounds per game than its opponents.
The Owls hauled in 20 offensive rebounds and scored 16 second-chance points. SMU’s inability to grab defensive rebounds lost the game for the Mustangs, SMU coach Tim Jankovich said.
“If we had a normal rebounding night, we would be a lot happier right now,” Jankovich added.
“In the zone, there’s a lot of openings on the offensive boards, the way the rotations are, so it’s really easy,” Pierre-Louis said. “All we have to do is crash.”
Four SMU players scored double-digit points. The Mustangs’ senior guard Jahmal McMurray led SMU with 22 points. Sophomore forward Ethan Chargois recorded 17 points and eight rebounds with fellow forward sophomore Isiaha Mike, who scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Temple will travel to Tampa, Florida to play South Florida (17-7, 7-5 The American) on Saturday in an important conference game, which could give Temple sole possession of conference’s fourth seed. After losing to Central Florida on Wednesday, USF sits one spot behind Temple in the standings.
Each of the Owls’ six remaining games is a “championship game,” Alston said.
“When we win it doesn’t matter, but when you lose, you’re out of it,” Alston added. “Hopefully we just keep winning and just stay the same. … If we get that win, we’ll put ourselves in pretty good shape.”