Heading into Thursday night’s matchup against East Carolina, Temple was one of the last four teams slated to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.
Following a 25-minute light delay at Williams Arena, the Owls strengthened their season résumé, pulling away from the Pirates down the stretch en route to a 70-56 win.
Senior guard Will Cummings paced Temple with 16 points, along with seven rebounds, six assists and three steals. Junior guard Quenton DeCosey added 11 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
The Owls struggled offensively from the start, shooting 1 of 8 from the field through the opening minutes. Meanwhile, the Pirates made three of their first five 3-pointers, giving them an 11-3 lead heading into the first media timeout.
After the break, however, Temple regrouped offensively, eventually taking a 27-25 lead just before the second media timeout, thanks to a layup from freshman forward Obi Enechionyia. The Pirates would knot the score at 27 with 5 minutes, 47 seconds remaining in the opening half, but the Owls would reclaim the lead moments later, and keep it for the rest of the contest.
One of the keys for Temple was its work on the glass – the Owls beat the Pirates in rebounding by a tally of 41-34, including 16 on the offensive end, which was double the amount ECU collected during the game.
The Owls also improved from a slow start defensively, gathering 10 total steals from five different players. Cummings and sophomore guard Josh Brown led Temple with three takeaways each.
Brown was also a key factor offensively coming off the bench, scoring 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting, including 3-of-6 from 3-point range, in 27 minutes of action.
ECU also got a key performance from one of its bench players – sophomore guard Caleb White led the Pirates with 13 points and seven rebounds. The Buckingham, Virginia product added three assists in his team’s defeat.
Even with the win, the Owls could fall out of the last four teams projected to make it into the NCAA tournament, according to Lunardi.
However, the result also means that the Owls (21-9, 12-5 American Athletic Conference) qualify for a first-round bye in the conference tournament, which begins March 12 in Hartford, Connecticut.
Temple concludes its regular season Saturday at the Liacouras Center against the host of that tournament – Connecticut. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Steve_Bohnel.