In what was the first non-conference match-up between Temple and St. Joe’s in 67 years, the Owls (4-3, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) beat the Hawks (4-3, 0-0 Atlantic 10 Conference) 77-69 at the Liacouras Center on Wednesday night.
Junior guard Will Cummings and senior guard Dalton Pepper led Temple with 16 points each. Junior forward Anthony Lee posted a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Cummings tied a career-high with seven assists.
With the victory, the Owls have extended their winning streak to three.
“I thought we did a real good job down the stretch today, there’s no question about it,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “I think we’re still a work in progress. We need to continue to understand what it’s going to take – how good we need to be defensively, how well intentioned we need to be offensively.”
Unlike the multiple late-game blown leads that occurred during Temple’s three-game losing streak earlier this season, the Owls have held off their opponents during their current three-game winning streak.
“We have a thing where we say, ’40 minutes,’” Cummings said. “Because that’s the area that we kind of lacked in the first couple of games we were losing. So as long as we stay focused for 40 minutes and don’t get really high off the first half going into halftime, just making sure that we close out games.”
The first half was a back-and-forth 20 minutes of play, with 11 lead changes and 11 ties. Both teams struggled from the field early on, as the Hawks shot 36.4 percent and the Owls shot 38.9 percent in the first half. Junior forward Jimmy McDonnell started for the third straight game. He has yet to score a point this season, but Dunphy said after the game that he “deserves this opportunity.”
Starting McDonnell likely increased productivity off the bench, however. Sophomore guard Quenton DeCosey scored 10 points, as Temple outscored St. Joe’s 25-2 off the bench.
At halftime, the Owls held a 39-34 lead.
Temple shot 52.0 percent from the field in the second half. There were several more lead changes, culminating in a 65-65 tie that was the result of a three pointer from St. Joe’s Langston Galloway with 4:27 remaining in the game.
From there, the Owls took the lead and never looked back.
After Lee made two layups and DeCosey made a free throw, Lee was fouled by St. Joe’s DeAndre Bembry. Lee made the first foul shot, but missed the second. But Lee grabbed his own rebound and forced the Hawks to foul, as there was 25 seconds remaining in the game. Lee made both of his free throws, essentially clinching the game for Temple.
“I just followed my rebound,” Lee said. “I was working on it last night in the gym. So I just read it, and I’m glad I had time to read it. Because they usually call a violation if you step over. So right as I saw it hit off the rim, I saw where it was going. I just ran and grabbed it.”
The Owls will play Texas on Saturday at noon in the Wells Fargo Center.
“It’s an inexperienced group who’s starting to figure out how it is to play with one another,” Dunphy said. “We’re seven games in and we’re getting a little bit better. We’ve got a long way to go and we still have a lot of work to do.”
Avery Maehrer can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @AveryMaehrer.