As the Owls took the court in New Orleans on Sunday to take on Tulane, the last place team in the American Athletic Conference, they already claimed the No. 1 seed for the conference’s postseason tournament.
However, Southern Methodist, who is ineligible for postseason play, sat right behind Temple in the conference standings.
Despite never pulling away from the Green Wave, the Owls scratched out a 64-56 victory in Fogelman Arena. With the win Temple (20-10, 14-4 The American) claimed The American’s regular season crown—the team’s first regular season conference championship since winning the Atlantic 10 Conference in 2012.
Temple’s first conference tournament game will take place on Friday at noon in Orlando, Florida. The No. 1 seeded Owls will take on the winner of No. 8 seed East Carolina and No. 9 seed South Florida.
The Owls got out to a hot start on Sunday, grabbing a 22-5 lead at the 12:48 mark in the first half. Led by sophomore forward Obi Enechionyia’s 13 first-half points, Temple brought a 40-27 lead into halftime.
Temple shot 51.7 percent from the field in the first half and made 6-of-9 attempts from 3-point range. The strong shooting performance did not continue into the second half.
After junior guard Josh Brown’s basket 13 seconds into the second half, Temple missed seven of its next eight attempts from the field. The Owls finished the half shooting 26.1 percent from the field. Enechionyia made 1-of-4 attempts in the second half, finishing with 18 points.
The Owls who came into Sunday’s contest, ranked No. 1 in Division in fewest turnovers, turned the ball over 15 times. Senior guard Quenton DeCosey, who finished with 15 points and four assists, had six turnovers.
Tulane cut Temple’s lead down to five at the 14:52 mark in the second half. DeCosey responded with two free throws 30 seconds later.
The Owls kept at least a seven-point advantage until the last seconds of the game, when Tulane senior guard Louis Dabney, who totaled 16 points on Sunday, knocked down a 3-pointer with 20 seconds remaining to cut Temple’s lead to five.
The Owls converted 6-of-8 free throws during the final minute of play to ward of the Green Wave’s late push.
Owen McCue can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Owen_McCue