Sitting at 11th place in the Atlantic 10 Conference, Temple (15-7, 4-4 A-10) knocked off the conference’s third seed in Charlotte (17-5, 5-3 A-10) at the Liacouras Center 89-88.
The Owls, who led the 49ers by as many as 13 in the game’s opening minutes, saw the 49ers crawl back to within three in the game’s final ten seconds. Temple was able to secure the win and moved into the conference’s 10th seed with a .500 conference record. The 89 total points were the highest the Owls had posted all season.
“Today we just made shots,” senior guard Khalif Wyatt said. “We moved the ball around a little bit more. Against Saint Joseph’s I was holding it a little too long. A lot of guys were touching the ball and guys stepped up.”
Temple was led by Wyatt and graduate senior forward Jake O’Brien, who posted 25 and 22 points, respectively. The pair also combined to shoot 68 percent from the field. The Owls as a team shot 53.4 percent, their highest percentage this season.
“It was one of those games where it is going to be a high scoring game because neither team was necessarily great on the defensive end,” coach Fran Dunphy said.
Five Charlotte players recorded double-figure point totals while four Owls were able to reach that mark. By scoring 88 points Charlotte, like Temple, eclipsed its highest point total for the season. The 88 points were also the most given up by the Owls since they surrendered 90 to No. 2 Duke on Dec. 8, 2012. Charlotte was also able to post a 60.4 shooting percentage, the highest the Owls have allowed an opponent this season.
“We are allowing teams to shoot such high percentages because they aren’t shooting jump shots, they are pounding it inside,” Wyatt said. “If you shoot a lot of shots in there you are going to make a lot of them.”
Charlotte senior forward Chris Braswell led the 49ers with 23 points. The 6-9, 227 pound forward also posted six rebounds and created matchup problems for the Owls inside.
“We aren’t doing our work early enough, and we are playing behind too many guys,” Dunphy said. “Braswell really hurt us early. We needed to front him a little bit more and we need to double down quicker.”
“Obviously Charlotte shot very well tonight,” Dunphy added. “Some of that is them, a lot of that is us. Our defense really needs a lot of work at this point. We need to do our work early on the post up guys.”
Charlotte was able to cut into a Temple lead late in the second half due to its ability to apply full-court pressure, and Temple’s inability to break it. The 49ers were able to cut a seven point deficit with 1:17 remaining to three points in the game’s final thirty seconds.
“We didn’t handle their pressure too well down the stretch,” Wyatt said. “I take a lot of blame for that. Some decisions that I made were just bad and it was really sloppy… we will learn from it. Nobody had really pressed us like that so it was new, but we will learn from it.”
Junior guard Dalton Pepper scored a career-high 11 points and added two assists in 18 minutes off the bench. In what was possibly his most consistent game as an Owl, Pepper did not turn the ball over, and left to a standing ovation from the home crowd.
“Every time he makes a three or some good plays, I just feel happy for him,” Wyatt said. “He hasn’t been playing his best this season and we need him. We know that he is going to come around and we are still going to go to him.”
Ultimately, the play of two players who weren’t on Temple’s active roster last season in Pepper and O’Brien, combined to score 33 points, four assists, six rebounds and no turnovers in 46 minutes off the bench.
“Dalton and I play a lot together in practice,” O’Brien said. “He did a really good job tonight, we have a deep team and we have a lot of talent. We need more guys like Dalton stepping up for us to be successful.”
Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ibrahimjacobs.