Mark Tyndale’s slam dunk with four minutes remaining against La Salle put the men’s basketball team in a solid position to win its fifth straight game Wednesday.
But the Owls, who led by one, did not score again until Tyndale notched a fast-break layup with 18 seconds remaining.
By then, it was too late.
The Explorers had scored eight points to take the game, 77-72, and halt the Owls’ winning streak at four games. The loss dropped the Owls to 11-13 overall and 5-6 in the Atlantic Ten Conference.
After topping Massachusetts Sunday, Temple coach Fran Dunphy said his team was not mentally prepared to face La Salle, which entered the game 13th in the 14-team A-10.
“I was more worried about this game than I was about the UMass game in terms of how you’re prepared mentally,” Dunphy said. “We were playing pretty well going into UMass. I thought we’d play well tonight.
“We basically got what we deserved and hopefully, it will be something we can build on for the future.”
Tyndale tied a career high with 27 points, but Dustin Salisbery and Dionte Christmas struggled. Though they combined for 26 points, the duo shot just 8-of-26 from the field.
La Salle coach John Giannini wouldn’t quite give his defense full credit for slowing down Christmas, who had scored at least 20 points in eight of the last nine games.
“The guy’s been so incredible that if he didn’t have an off-night every once and a while, he’d be the best shooter on the planet,” Giannini said. “All he did tonight was just show that he’s human.”
The Owls had shot above 50 percent in each of their previous six games, but failed to reach that mark against the Explorers, shooting 43 percent. Dunphy recently had stressed team rebounding, but the Explorers won the battle of the glass, 43-28.
The Owls also committed 26 personal fouls. Christmas fouled out with the Owls trailing 70-66 with 1:37 on the clock. Salisbery also fouled out.
In all, Dunphy said, few positives could be taken from the game.
“I can’t wait to see the film,” he said. “I think this will be as good a teaching film as we could be possibly have.”
The Owls opened the game slow, falling behind 6-0 before Dion Dacons put the Owls on the board 3 minutes, 15 seconds into the game. That sparked a 7-0 run which put the Owls on top.
From there, the game remained tight. Neither team went ahead by more than three points until Kimmani Barrett’s layup put the Explores up 20-15 midway through the first half.
The Explorers couldn’t expand their lead and the Owls stole it, courtesy of a 9-2 run in which Tyndale scored six points.
But the Owls failed to make a shot over the next three minutes as La Salle embarked on a 9-0 run to take its largest lead of the night, 33-26. The Explorers entered the break on top 39-36.
After being held scoreless in the first half, Salisbery hit a three-pointer to put the Owls up 43-41 shortly into the second frame.
Again, the game remained close until the Owls held the Explorers scoreless for a five minute stretch to take a 60-53 lead.
But the Explorers, led by Paul Johnson and Barrett, used a 10-2 run to re-take the lead, 63-62, with six minutes left. The lead flip-flopped a couple times in the next two minutes, but the Owls went cold over the final four minutes.
“I thought maybe that stretch where we went up seven in the second half, we could put some space between us an them,” Dunphy said. “But they did a good job. We did a poor job.
“Yeah, we didn’t play really well.”
John Kopp can be reached at email@example.com.