ATLANTIC CITY – Midway through second half of the men’s basketball team’s game against Cincinnati Saturday, the Owls seemed to have the balanced offensive attack Fran Dunphy had wanted.
Dionte Christmas, Semaj Inge and Dustin Salisbery had all reached double-digit scoring by halftime.
Then, the offense fell apart.
The Owls suffered through a 10-minute scoring drought as the Bearcats pulled away with the game, 80-71, at Boardwalk Hall.
“There are stretches of games where we’re really playing well and there’s other stretches of games where we’re not as poised and understanding of what we’re trying to do as we can be,” Dunphy said. “Hopefully, that will come.”
“Overall, we just didn’t keep our composure,” Salisbery said.
Christmas led the Owls with 20 points, the fifth-straight time he’s eclipsed the 20-point barrier. Salisbery recorded 18 and senior Dion Dacons added 10, but the Owls’ failures under the glass and at the foul line ultimately hurt them.
Dacons grabbed the lone first-half offensive rebound as the Owls got beat 43-28 under the glass. They notched 16 of 23 free throws, but at one point, missed three consecutive one-and-ones.
Nevertheless, the Owls led until midway through the second half.
With 13:07 remaining, Inge notched his career-high 17th point to put the Owls (3-3) on top 63-53. The basket also marked the beginning of the Bearcats’ 18-0 comeback run.
Three possessions later Inge exited the court with a cramp he said originated during halftime.
About four minutes later Christmas headed to the bench with his fourth foul as the Owls clung to a 63-62 lead. That left Salisbery and reserve DaShone Kirkendoll as the Owls’ primary offensive weapons.
The Owls failed to adjust.
“While our defense wasn’t great, our offense was no where to be found in that stretch,” Dupnhy said.
By the time Salisbery ended the Owls’ shooting woes with 2:49 on the clock, the Bearcats (6-2) had constructed a 71-65 advantage.
Despite the return of Inge and Christmas, the Owls couldn’t get any closer.
“They just came out hungry in the second half,” Salisbery said. “They had mistakes in the first half that they didn’t have in the second half. If we had made our free throws and hit the glass a little more on the defensive end and not let them get the offensive rebounds that they did, the outcome may have been different.”
But the Bearcats had begun chipping away at the Owls in the first half.
The Owls’ shooters opened the game scorching hot. Temple put points on the board in 12 of its first 17 possessions to take its largest lead of the day, at 28-12.
Then, the Bearcats slowly snuck back into the game. A 14-3 run midway through the period pulled Cincinnati within five points, at 31-26.
The Bearcats committed 14 first-half fouls, but the Owls couldn’t convert at the charity stripe, missing three consecutive one-and-ones at one point, and the Bearcats left the half only down 46-39.
The Bearcats kept pace with the Owls in the second half, until they embarked on their 18-0 run.
John Kopp can be reached at email@example.com.