Temple Men’s Basketball (15-14, 9-7 American Athletic Conference) lost to Cincinnati (19-10, 10-6 The American) 88-83 in overtime on Wednesday night in Cincinnati, Ohio. After ending their four-game losing streak with a 76-53 win against Tulsa (5-22, 1-15 The American) on Feb. 19, the Owls are now back in the losing column and are in the midst of their worst stretch of basketball as the conference tournament nears.
Forward Zach Hicks nailed a wide open transition three while the Owls were down three and the shot clock expired to tie the game at 75 to force overtime after the Owls trailed for almost the entirety of the second half.
In overtime, Cincinnati guard Landers Nolley II took over, scoring nine of the Bearcats’ 13 overtime points. The Owls had an opportunity for a game winning three-point shot but guard Hysier Miller opted to take a two-point shot and missed a turnaround jumper from inside the paint.
In the opening stages of the first half, Temple shot the ball efficiently, scoring on eight of their first 11 field goal attempts including three-point shots from Miller and guard Damian Dunn. Guard Jahlil White, who averages just 5.2 points per game, scored eight consecutive points for the Owls to help them build an early lead.
Cincinnati quickly responded despite a significantly lower field goal percentage. Guard David DeJulius got to the free-throw line on back-to-back offensive possessions, including a three-point foul that helped the Bearcats jump back in front with eight minutes remaining in the first half.
Back-and-forth play continued for much of the latter half of the first period. A three from Cincinnati guard Dan Skillings Jr. in the closing minutes was the difference, sending the Bearcats into halftime with a 37-34 lead.
In the second half, Temple struggled to create driving lanes and looked dysfunctional on offense out of the gate, a common problem for the Owls after halftime this season. Miller and forward Kur Jongkuch both stumbled and lost control of the ball resulting in turnovers during two of the Owls’ early-half possessions. The Owls were forced to take contested jump shots which they could not consistently make.
Each time it seemed like Cincinnati was going to pull away, Temple hit a big bucket to weather the storm. The Bearcats jumped out by nine following a driving layup by Nolley but a pair of threes from Dunn and Miller cut the deficit to just three. Shortly after, the Bearcats again began to pull away but another three from Dunn as well as a pair of converted free throws kept Temple within striking distance.
Cincinnati was able to get to the free-throw line at will while in the double bonus during the late stages to ice the game and secure the victory. As a team, the Bearcats shot 28-30 at the line.
The loss keeps Temple behind Cincinnati in the conference standings and hurts their chances of earning a first round bye in the conference tournament. The Owls must win at least one of their final two regular season games in order to secure a first round bye in the conference tournament. Currently, the Owls hold the fifth seed and the final bye.
Temple will look to bounce back and gain momentum heading into the conference tournament when they return home to take on the University of Central Florida (15-12, 6-9 The American) on March 2 at 7 p.m. in their final game at The Liacouras Center this season.
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