Owls fall to ranked Memphis

Team falls to 5-9, 0-4 in American Athletic Conference play.

Quenton DeCosey scored 18 points and played all 40 minutes against Memphis. // HUA ZONG // TTN
Quenton DeCosey scored 18 points and played all 40 minutes against Memphis. // HUA ZONG // TTN

Shaq Goodwin received the basketball from teammate Joe Jackson with his team ahead by a comfortable margin with seconds remaining on the clock, and promptly slammed it through the hoop.

Goodwin’s final dunk put the finishing touches on a dominating 23-point performance from the senior that helped Memphis knock off Temple, 79-69 at the Liacouras Center Saturday afternoon. Goodwin grabbed 11 rebounds to secure a double-double for his efforts in the Tigers’ win.

“Goodwin’s a tough match-up,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “He’s very aggressive and he had eight offensive rebounds which hurt us.”

The loss marked Temple’s fourth straight in the American Athletic Conference, as they are still without a conference win in 2013-14.

The Owls (5-9, 0-4 The American) opened the scoring after junior guard Will Cummings came up with a steal and gave it off to redshirt-senior guard Dalton Pepper for a layup and a 2-0 Temple lead.

Quenton DeCosey scored 18 points and played all 40 minutes against Memphis. // HUA ZONG // TTN
Quenton DeCosey scored 18 points and played all 40 minutes against Memphis. // HUA ZONG // TTN

Memphis (12-3, 3-1 The American) then quickly roared back with an 11-0 run to establish a double-digit lead just minutes into the first half.

Temple made it a game later in the quarter thanks in part to an 8-2 run capped by a flashy drive and layup from freshman guard Josh Brown that cut the deficit to two midway through the first stanza.

The Owls continued to chip away at the Memphis advantage until Pepper hit consecutive free throws to give Temple a 21-20 lead with 7:30 left in the half.

The remainder of the period saw a back and forth contest that culminated in Pepper sinking a deep 3-point basket with four seconds remaining in the half to give Temple a 37-36 lead at the break.

The second half picked up with more back-and-forth action that saw several lead changes out of the gate. 

The Tigers drained three consecutive three-point baskets midway through the half as part of an 11-2 run that gave Memphis a 59-51 lead with 11:20 remaining in the half. Tigers senior guard Michael Dixon Jr. kicked off the rally by hitting the first two long-range buckets after Temple briefly switched to a zone defense after a timeout.

“We tried zone the one time and we just didn’t get out quick enough on two of them,” Dunphy said. “That hurt us. …  I just thought we needed to change the look-up. We were hoping we would be okay with it, but obviously it didn’t work.”

“Our coverage could’ve been better on it, but they made big shots in that stretch that hurt us,” Dunphy added. “We had a couple opportunities to score too and we didn’t stem the tide at that point.”

The Owls attempted to chip away at the deficit late, as a long-range basket from sophomore guard Quenton DeCosey and a reverse layup from Pepper made it a five-point game at 69-64 with a little more than four minutes left to play.

After the Tigers took a nine-point lead with about 2:30 left to play, Pepper came through again with a 3-point basket from the corner to cut the deficit to six points at 73-67.

A six-point margin was as close as the Owls would get after that point, however, as the Tigers got into foul territory late and held off any potential Temple comeback.

Pepper sank a game-high 24 points for the Owls and was 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. Saturday’s performance marked another big game from Pepper in a rejuvenated senior season.

DeCosey followed Pepper with 18 points in the losing effort. Cummings, who was a game-time decision due to a blow to the head early in Temple’s loss to South Florida Thursday night, added 11 points on 2-of-6 shooting.

The Tigers held junior forward Anthony Lee in check, as Lee managed nine points on 3-of-11 shooting and struggled from the foul line, hitting 3-of-8 free throws.

Dixon chipped in 15 points for the Tigers. Memphis controlled play in the paint for the majority of the game, outrebounding the Owls 45-28.

Although Temple hung tight with the ranked Tigers up until the final minutes of the contest, the loss left the Owls at dead last in The American with a difficult match-up against conference-leader Cincinnati (14-2, 3-0 The American) looming on Tuesday.

“I like how we hung in the game and fought to the end. One or two more stops, one or two more makes and we’re right there at the end of the game. I’m just happy with the guys and how they played and fought. Everybody played hard and did what they could.”

“We’re still a work in progress. We’re putting ourselves in pretty different position, but we’re losing focus on a possession or two which changes the whole momentum on the game. That’s what we have to correct.”

 Andrew Parent can be reached at andrew.parent@temple.edu or on Twitter @daParent93.

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