Free throws propel Temple men’s basketball to overtime win

Temple shot 10-for-11 from the line in overtime to secure an 82-80 overtime victory against South Florida on Wednesday at the Liacouras Center.

Sophomore guard Nate Pierre-Louis (center) drives the lane during Temple's 82-80 overtime win against South Florida on Wednesday at the Liacouras Center. | JUSTIN OAKES / THE TEMPLE NEWS

For the second straight game, Temple University held a lead only to allow its opponent back in the game.

The Owls (13-3, 3-1 American Athletic Conference) led by as many as 17 points against South Florida, but they needed overtime to earn an 82-80 win on Saturday at the Liacouras Center.

USF (12-4, 2-2 American Athletic Conference) scored 45 second-half points to force the extra period. With eight seconds left in overtime, the Owls held a three-point lead while the Bulls had the ball with a chance to tie the game. Senior center Ernest Aflakpui grabbed a rebound after USF redshirt-freshman forward Alexis Yetna missed two free throws to secure the Owls’ win.

On Wednesday against nationally ranked and previously undefeated Houston, Aflakpui took a last-second charge to secure Temple’s 73-69 victory. Before Aflakpui erased the Cougars’ potential game-tying basket, the Owls surrendered a seven-point lead and allowed Houston to have an opportunity to tie the game with seven seconds left.

During Saturday’s second-half comeback, USF made 70.4 percent of its shots from the field and forced Temple to commit 12 turnovers. Bulls sophomore guard David Collins scored all of his 16 points in the second half.

“It could have been a lot more fun if we had won the game in regulation,” sophomore forward J.P. Moorman II said. “We had way too many mental lapses, way too many turnovers. …I felt like we could have put them away in the first half.”

“This is an amazing game for us to learn from,” coach Fran Dunphy said.

Yetna scored 14 points in the second half to pace the Bulls’ comeback. Yetna, who finished with 24 points and nine rebounds, shot 7-for-8 in the second half. He also grabbed an offensive rebound that led to USF redshirt-junior guard Laquincy Rideau’s game-tying 3-pointer with 28 seconds left to force overtime.

The free throw disparity between the two teams decided the game. The Bulls made just 10-of-25 attempts while the Owls converted on 23 of their 28 attempts from the free-throw line. In overtime, Temple shot 10-for-11 from the line, while USF missed three of its seven free-throw chances.

After the game, USF coach Brian Gregory said the Bulls aren’t “a great free throw shooting team.” Their free-throw percentage dropped to 60.9 after Saturday’s game.

Moorman, who recorded a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds, attributed Temple’s second-half troubles to “mental lapses.” Dunphy thinks fatigue after an “emotional victory” on Wednesday caught up to the Owls.

Temple’s first two possessions in the second half ended in a missed layup and turnover by sophomore guard Nate Pierre-Louis. That sequence resulted in the Owls giving up all their “mojo” to USF, Dunphy said. The Bulls began the half on a 13-3 run.

Pierre-Louis scored six points in the overtime period and led all Temple players with 22 points.

Moorman’s recorded some of his 12 points at crucial moments in the game. He hit a 3-point shot to beat the first-half buzzer and give the Owls a 14-point halftime lead. With 7:22 remaining in the second half, Moorman hit a 3-point shot to halt Temple’s two-minute scoring drought and help the Owls retake the lead.

Senior guard Shizz Alston Jr. and junior guard Quinton Rose scored 20 and 16 points, respectively. Alston finished 2-for-8 from the beyond the 3-point arc. In the past two games against Houston and USF, Alston shot 4-for-17 from 3-point range.

Temple had a strong start to the game with scoring contributions from six players.

Junior guard Quentin Jackson Jr. played a season-high 11 minutes with junior guard Alani Moore II unable to play due to a left ankle injury. Jackson hit a 3-point shot and forced Rideau to turn the ball over twice. Before Saturday, Jackson had played just six minutes in five games.

Junior center Damion Moore also sat out with an ankle injury, which led to sophomore forward Justyn Hamilton setting a career-high with 18 minutes and tying a career-high with six points.

In the first half, Hamilton played 12 minutes and recorded all six of his points on 3-of-4 shooting.

Dunphy hopes Moore II and Moore will be available for Temple’s next game on Wednesday against East Carolina (8-7 1-2 The American). The team hasn’t played to its full capabilities yet, Moorman said.

“We haven’t played a full 40 [minute game] yet,” Alston said. “When we do, we are going to be a really scary team to play.”

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