As Cincinnati’s junior guard Troy Caupain fired a three-quarter court shot wide left, Obi Enechionyia stood just outside the paint, reaching his left arm to snag the ball as the buzzer sounded in Temple’s 67-65 double overtime victory Saturday.
As the sophomore forward walked toward his bench to celebrate with his teammates, he smiled, slapped the ball and jogged down the court.
It was the Owls’ ninth win in 16 games this season, and the team’s fourth win in the American Athletic Conference.
“I think this is a big win, a great win,” senior guard Quenton DeCosey said. “We were both 3-2 and both teams wanted it. [Saturday] we got the W.”
The win came three days after the Owls relinquished an 11-point lead in the second half of the team’s 67-65 loss to Memphis last Wednesday. In the loss, the squad missed 10 of its final 16 shots and turned the ball over seven times in the second half.
“We got to get a game back,” DeCosey said of his team’s mentality on Saturday. “We know we let one go and this was a have-to-win. We did a great job of doing it.”
Wednesday’s loss was the third game this season in which the Owls lost a matchup holding a lead with less than three minutes left in regulation.
“We also talked about how fragile winning and losing is,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “It often times is a made shot, missed shot. Get a rebound or not get a rebound or don’t throw the ball away. Those kind of things.”
The Owls sit in fifth place in The American with a matchup against first-place Southern Methodist on Saturday at the Liacouras Center. The Mustangs are undefeated and No. 10 in the AP Top 25 poll.
Dunphy’s squad has a Ratings Percentage Index ranking of 86, the fifth highest out of the 11 teams in The American. Temple is 0-4 against Top 50 RPI teams in 2015-16.
In 2014-15, the Owls finished with the No. 34 RPI in Division I, going 2-8 against Top 50 RPI teams.
“There are a lot of really good teams in this league,” Dunphy said. “We’ve played our share of them already. … It’s a really good league with a lot of good coaches and people who work hard.”
Since starting the season 1-3, with all three losses coming against ranked opponents, the Owls are 8-4 in their last 12 games, with two wins against Top 25 teams and two double-digit losses.
Last season, the Owls defeated one ranked opponent in five tries.
“I feel like it can be a lot better,” senior forward Jaylen Bond said of the team’s consistency. “We are up and down right now. I feel like if we come out and play our hardest, we can be a more consistent team.”
“I don’t think we are that up and down, to be honest with you. … A play can change a game,” Dunphy said.
Of the 14 teams that remain on the Owls’ schedule, two are ranked in the top 50 of the RPI, including a matchup with Villanova, the No. 1 team in the RPI.
Senior guard Devin Coleman said in order to win games down the stretch, the Owls need to continue to improve on the mental side of basketball.
“We think we are talented enough, and we give good enough effort,” Coleman said. “It’s just about the decisions we make offensively and defensively. … That is going to lead us to where we want to be.”
Michael Guise can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org @Michael_Guise