CHARLESTON, S.C.—Two possessions.
That’s what made the difference.
In the men’s basketball team’s 76-72 loss to Clemson Sunday afternoon in the Championship game of the Charleston Classic at Carolina First Arena, it found itself down by two points with 2:44 to go.
After forcing a turnover, junior guard Ryan Brooks missed a reverse layup in traffic. Then, after forcing another turnover, senior guard Dionte Christmas wildly missed a fade-away jump shot off the side of the backboard.
Those two trips up the court were only possible due to the Owls coming back from a deficit as large as 14 points. From the 10:07 mark of the second half until the 2:44 mark where the lead was just a bucket, the Owls went on a 19-7 spurt.
The uncharacteristically out-of-control play didn’t exactly please coach Fran Dunphy.
“We made a couple of foolish mistakes down the stretch that would have helped us come back a little,” he said. “We had two plays in transition that we kind of forced, there was no need to. We had plenty of time.”
Brooks, who finished with a game-high 19 points, recalls that he was just trying to make a play.
“I remember getting a steal and [a] player was running in front of me trying to cut me off,” he said. “I remember having a defender behind me on my right side, so I tried to cut [him] off and tried to finish on the other and side and draw the foul. But, I came up short and didn’t get the foul.”
“I thought it was a pretty good transition situation where I thought I could score and I was trying to be aggressive,” Brooks continued. “Unfortunately, I didn’t come up with the bucket.”
The Owls also had a chance to get the ball down by three with 27 seconds to go, but Clemson’s David Potter grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed free throw.
The Tigers then hit both their free throws and sealed the victory.
But in the end, the Owls were still focused on the fact that the made it a game.
“We fought, we showed tremendous heart, we didn’t stop playing until the clock said zeros,” Christmas said. “And I’m proud of my team.”
The Owls found themselves hampered in the first half by the Clemson zone, which forced 11 turnovers on the Temple offense.
“This team was extremely athletic, extremely long,” Brooks said. “Their press was very quick, we had to make sure when they were pushing the ball up the floor, players coming behind us weren’t back-tapping us so had to swing the ball really quick.”
The Tigers also knocked down nine 3-pointers in the first half, but none in the second.
“They were great in the first half. They made some deep shots, some were contested, some were not,” Dunphy said. “I was hoping that they wouldn’t shoot it quite as well [in the second half].”
Along with the tree point defense, Christmas came alive in the second half, as he and sophomore forward Lavoy Allen added 14 points, while freshman guard Ramon Moore played 24 minutes off the bench and chipped in with 13 points.
Temple returns to action this Friday against Lafayette at 8:30 p.m.
Freshman guard T.J. DiLeo got a five minute run in the first half, as everyone on the Owls’ roster but senior forward Rafael DeLeone played in the Charleston Classic…Senior guard Semaj Inge fouled out in just 16 minutes of action…Allen knocked down two 3-pointers and rimmed out two other’s…The Owls shot 8-for-8 from the free throw line.
Todd Orodenker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.