In its fourth straight game road game, Temple sleepwalked through the first 33 minutes of its contest at Dayton Saturday afternoon. Then someone must have turned on a switch.
The Owls erased a 14-point deficit, but still could not overcome Dayton’s efficient play. They got within a point but watched as the Flyers put the finishing touches on a 60-56 win.
The two squads last met in March 2003 in the Atlantic 10 championship. Dayton won then, securing a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Temple (4-7, 0-2) has now lost its first two conference games, a first for coach John Chaney in his 22 years at the helm.
Dayton (11-3, 2-0) exploited the Owls matchup zone, hitting wide-open three pointers. Two sophomore guards did the Owls in: Monty Scott netted 20 points and Warren Williams added 16 as they combined to shoot a scorching 14 of 17 from the field, including six of nine from beyond the arc.
With seven minutes to go, the Flyers had a comfortable 57-43 lead. Temple freshman guard Dustin Salisbery swished a three-pointer, then followed that with a finger roll to cut Dayton’s lead to single digits. With just over five minutes to play, senior guard David Hawkins buried a trey off a Nehemiah Ingram steal and sophomore center Keith Butler scored a lay up off an offensive rebound.
Meanwhile, Dayton appeared to be falling apart. Two missed free throws and two turnovers kept the Owls’ momentum going. Hawkins drilled another three-pointer with a defender hanging all over him, slicing the Flyers lead to 57-56 with 2:32 left.
With 17 seconds left to play and down two, Hawkins went to the free throw line for a one-and-one. He missed the first attempt off the back of the rim, and Temple’s miracle comeback fell short.
Through the majority of the game, Temple’s lack of shooting and offensive initiative caused them to fall behind quickly. Hawkins finished with 26 points and four rebounds, but shot 10 of 28 from the field. In addition, slumping sophomore guard Mardy Collins had just nine points on 3 of 13 shooting.
Temple got to the free throw line a mere five times. Not until the final seven minutes of the game did the Owls start driving more to the basket, instead of settling for shots from the perimeter.
Temple returns home this Wednesday to face Rhode Island at the Liacouras Center.