The Owls were on their way to winning a seventh straight game as they faced Tulsa at the Liacouras Center Saturday afternoon.
But with 16:15 remaining in the second half, Will Cummings was fouled on a breakaway layup by Tulsa junior forward D’Andre Wright. The senior guard fell awkwardly on his left leg, grabbing it as he rolled around on the floor and grimaced in pain.
After sinking one of two free throws, Cummings limped off the floor and into the locker room. His departure proved costly as the Golden Hurricane turned a then 11-point deficit into a seven-point victory, defeating the Owls by a score of 63-56.
Both teams struggled offensively in the first, shooting a combined 12-of-53 from the field to post a shooting percentage of 22.6 percent.
Coach Fran Dunphy said his team’s slow offensive start had to do with a lack of momentum, which was the result of missing open shots.
“We had a number of open looks that didn’t go down,” Dunphy said. “I think you can feed off your offense sometimes … I think college players do that a little more often, feeding off their offense … I think if we had made shots, it would have built a nice confidence level and momentum for us, but we didn’t.”
Even with the slow offensive start, Temple took a 23-17 lead into halftime. The Owls then lengthened the lead to 11 in the opening minutes of the second half, before Cummings left the game with an injured left ankle.
Junior forward Jaylen Bond said losing Cummings was a key point in the momentum shift during the second half.
“It was big, he’s a great leader,” Bond said. “He helps us out a lot. When things aren’t going our way, he settles us down, so it’s tough missing him in the second half.”
Bond finished the game with a team-high 16 points and 14 rebounds, his third consecutive double-double for Temple. He also made both his three point attempts in a game where the Owls only converted 18.5 percent (5-of-27) of their shots from beyond the arc.
“He’s playing really well,” Dunphy said of Bond. “He was two for two on threes, so we obviously should have gotten him more threes … he rebounded well, he’s as staunch a defender as we have, [so] he played very well.”
Meanwhile, senior guard Jesse Morgan struggled from 3-point land, missing all 13 three-pointers he took en route to a 1-of-17 shooting performance. Dunphy said he’ll let the Philadelphia native keep shooting if his shot selection is smart.
“You want him to shoot good shots,” Dunphy said. “[There were] a couple of shots he should not have put in the air, and had a little more patience. But he’s a jump shooter, we’ve talked about it as a team, we’ve talked about it as a [coaching] staff. If you can get him looks, we’re going to take them.”
On the other end of the court, Temple’s defense faltered down the stretch, as the Golden Hurricane shot 56 percent in the second half on 14 of 25 shots.
Junior guard Quenton DeCosey said the drop in defense was due to a lack of concentration.
“I think it’s just a loss of focus,” DeCosey said. “We were on a winning streak, maybe that got to us a little bit … we’ve struggled just getting to loose balls, getting offensive rebounds on foul shots, so it’s just a loss of focus.”
After Cummings’ injury, Tulsa slowly worked its way back into the game, using a 19-1 run to turn a 46-35 deficit at the 11:34 mark into a 54-47 lead with 3:34 left in the contest. Junior guard Shaquille Harrison made a couple key layups during that stretch and led the Golden Hurricane with 24 points, 19 of which came in the second half.
He also made 10 of his 12 free throws, an area where Tulsa shot 82.1 percent on 23 of 28 attempts. In comparison, Temple converted 65 percent of its free throws on 13 of 20 attempts.
With the loss, Temple drops to 12-5 and 3-1 in the American Athletic Conference. Tulsa jumps to 10-5 and 3-0 in The American.
DeCosey said it’s important to move on after the loss, which snapped a season-high six game winning streak.
“We just have to get focused on the next game,” DeCosey said. “SMU Wednesday at home is going to be a big game, so we just can’t dwell on this game, we have to start focusing on the next game.”
Temple will face the Mustangs on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Cummings returned to the sideline during the second half with a bandage wrapped around his left ankle and foot. He then returned a second time without the bandage. He is day-to-day … Morgan had six assists in the loss, a career-high … After appearing in every game thus far this season, sophomore guard/forward Daniel Dingle did not appear in Saturday’s contest.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Steve_Bohnel.