Entering a clash with American Athletic Conference foe Southern Methodist Wednesday night, the health of senior guard Will Cummings was the primary concern surrounding the Owls.
After losing 60-55 to the Mustangs, it should have been the return of a Philadelphia native not named Larry Brown.
SMU redshirt-senior forward Markus Kennedy scored a game-high 21 points, his last two coming on a dunk with less than a minute to play, to knock off a Temple team that has now lost two straight conference games. Kennedy grew up in the Philadelphia area and was a Villanova transfer.
“I usually start guys before a game when they’re back in their hometown,” Brown, SMU coach and former Philadelphia 76ers head man, said. “And we got their bigs in foul trouble, which helped.”
Senior guard Jesse Morgan led the Owls (12-6, 3-2 The American) with 15 points, and Jaylen Bond added a team-high seven rebounds.
Temple jumped out to a seven-point halftime lead, and led by as many as 13 early in the second half. But a 9-2 run by the Mustangs, coupled with Temple’s foul trouble, was too much for the Owls to overcome. SMU took its first lead since the 4-minute, 59-second mark of the first half with 1:49 left in the game, and never gave it back.
The game represented the second straight game that Temple has held a double-digit second-half lead and lost.
“There’s no reason why we should be losing these games,” Morgan said. “We have to defend better.”
Cummings, whose status was uncertain entering the game after straining his left ankle against Tulsa last Saturday, played 27 minutes and finished with one point and five assists. Brown, who earned the start in place of Cummings, played 13 minutes in the first half, but picked up his third foul just after halftime. Brown played 24 minutes total and had as many turnovers (five) as points.
“I feel bad because I have seen Cummings before, and he was about 50 percent,” Brown said.
“He wasn’t himself, but he did a great job as a leader,” Morgan said. “He did a great job coming out and showing courage.”
Temple had no answer for SMU’s inside game. The Owls were outscored 32-16 in the paint as Kennedy tied his career-high scoring mark. Despite seven rebounds from Bond, the conference’s leading rebounder, Temple held a minus-10 margin.
The Owls were hindered by foul trouble early and often in the game. Obi Enechionyia, the team’s lone freshman, picked up four fouls in 14 minutes of game action. He did not score and finished with one rebound.
“It’s just learning the game, and studying the game,” Dunphy said of Enechionyia. “How can I change doing my work earlier? The anticipation piece still isn’t there.”
Both teams shot the ball roughly equally. Temple shot 41 percent from the floor compared to SMU’s 48 percent. While Temple shot 31 percent from 3-point range, 26 of the team’s 49 shots were from beyond the arc.
The Owls entered the game attempting the most 3-point attempts in the conference, and was seventh in shooting percentage from long range.
The team will attempt to snap a two-game losing streak Saturday against Cincinnati on the road.
Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ibrahimjacobs.