Jalen Adams and Connecticut’s offense had a one-point deficit and 8.4 seconds to work with. It was all they needed.
Adams took the in-bounds pass and drove to the paint. The sophomore guard made a right-handed layup from the left side of the basket with less than three seconds left to give the Huskies a 64-63 win on Sunday at the Liacouras Center.
Adams drives to the hoop to give the Huskies a one-point lead. pic.twitter.com/5BEifuDrmv
— Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue) February 19, 2017
When sophomore guard Shizz Alston Jr.’s long right wing 3-point attempt at the buzzer missed the mark, most of the crowd of 8,702 let out a collective sigh. Sophomore center Ernest Aflakpui and junior forward Obi Enechionyia had the same reaction as they walked toward the Owls’ bench. They both interlocked their fingers behind their heads and looked in disbelief.
“We have two of these now, we have Tulsa and Connecticut at the buzzer, at home,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “There’s not a lot to say, other than if we all make one better decision, including me. Whether, it’s a defensive set or substitution or whatever and they hold onto the ball, they get a rebound, they make a shot, whatever it happens to be, we all make one better decision, then we’re coming away with two great wins…but now we’re sitting here after two tough losses.”
Alston gets a decent look but misses at the buzzer. Temple falls to UConn 64-63. pic.twitter.com/xilGivmuIE
— Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue) February 19, 2017
Temple (14-14, 5-10 American Athletic Conference) had a 10-point, 56-46, lead with eight minutes, 29 seconds to go. The Huskies went on an 11-2 run from the 8:05 mark to the 4:28 mark to cut their deficit to one. Redshirt-senior guard Rodney Purvis started the run with a 3-pointer and ended it with a two-point jumper. Purvis hit another 3-pointer with 2:58 left to tie the game at 60. He finished with 18 points and five assists and shot 50 percent from the field. Adams had 13 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Dingle had a one-and-one with 41 seconds left and the chance to put the Owls up by three. He missed the front end, leading to Connecticut’s last-second opportunity.
Freshman center Damion Moore helped the Owls get their second-half lead. He only had two points and attempted one field goal in the first half but had nine points on 4-of-4 shooting from the field in the first 5:44 of the second half. Moore was one of four Owls to finish in double figures, as he and freshman guard Alani Moore II both had 11 points.
“I felt like first half I wasn’t aggressive enough, so I just came out with the mindset second half that I’d be more aggressive, attack the glass and look to score,” Moore said.
Aflakpui replaced Moore with 11:09 left, and Moore didn’t return. Dunphy said he wanted to rely on veteran players in crunch time.
Alston and Dingle paced the Owls’ offense in the first half. With 5:34 seconds left, Alston made an elbow jumper to put the Owls up 20-17 and end Temple’s stretch of 5:53 without a field goal. On the defensive end of the floor, Alston stole the ball from Purvis and passed to Dingle for a fastbreak dunk. The pair combined for 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting in the first 20 minutes.
After 12 first-half points, Dingle didn’t score until the 11:09 mark of the second half and only had five second-half points. Senior forward Mark Williams hit him on a bounce pass while he was cutting to the basket and Dingle laid it in from the left side and converted the and-one to put Temple up 52-44. Dingle became the first Owl to lead the team in points, rebounds and assists in a single game since Khalif Wyatt.
Alston shot 1-for-8 in the second half, including 1-for-6 from 3-point range.
“Well [freshman guard Christian Vital ] I think played a great job on him in the second half, getting over screen and rolls,” Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie said. “They was doing kind of like a weave action in the first half and was getting our guys isolated and he was making some big time plays. But to hold him 1-for-9 on 3-point line is great for our guys. We wanted to really key on him and run him off the 3-point line and make it hard for him all night and I think our guys did a great job.”
Both teams shot at least 40 percent from the floor in the first half. The Owls shot 44 percent from the field in the first half and 5-of-9 from downtown. Moore II and Dingle were each 2-for-2 from 3-point range. Connecticut had three players score at least five points, led by Adams’ six. The Huskies outscored Temple 12-6 in the paint but only shot 3-for-10 from 3-point range.
The Huskies shot 54.2 percent in the second half and held the Owls to one field goal in the last 4:13 to improve to 7-1 in their last eight games.
“Once again, it was a tale of two halves,” Ollie said. “We just played amazingly great in the second half and those last five minutes we just played lockdown defense that got us a win.”
Enechionyia was limited by foul trouble in the half. He had to come out of the game with 12:40 left in the first half and only played seven minutes. He finished the game with two points and one rebound in 19 minutes. He is averaging 7.2 points per game in his last five contests.
Temple’s next game is on Wednesday night at the Liacouras Center against Central Florida. The Owls scored a season-low 11 first-half points against the Knights in December.
“We got another great challenge Wednesday,” Dunphy said. “They’re a good team, [Central Florida]. You got that challenge of Tacko Fall, whose a big guy changes a lot of shots, blocks some shots and is getting better on the offensive end.”
Evan Easterling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Evan_Easterling. Follow The Temple News @TheTempleNews and @TTN_Sports.