Sophomore guard Shizz Alston, Jr. took the inbounds pass and brought the ball up the floor. The Owls trailed by three points with 12.9 seconds left against the University of New Hampshire at the Liacouras Center.
Alston’s deep 3-pointer clanked off the back of the rim. Freshman guard Alani Moore committed a foul fighting for the loose ball near the Owls’ bench and New Hampshire made the two free throws on the other end to seal a 57-52 victory in Monday night’s Preseason National Invitation Tournament game.
The Owls trailed by one point with 17 seconds left, but Alston could not sink a foul-line jumper to give Temple the lead.
Alston said he realized he wasn’t shooting well Friday against La Salle, but contributed to the win by getting three steals and scoring 10 points in the final 25 minutes. He struggled again on Monday, finishing 3-for-16 from the field and 1-for-10 from behind the 3-point arc.
“I just think we had a number of chances to score some baskets and we didn’t,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “Shizz is probably not going to go 1-for-10 on threes again. He had his looks, he had his moments. We needed a little bit more from [sophomore center Ernest Aflakpui] but that’ll come. So we are inexperienced, but that’s the way it is. We need to figure out a way to win this game tonight, we didn’t.”
Alston’s shooting woes weren’t exclusive. Temple shot 30.3 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from 3-point range in the contest. Junior forward Obi Enechionyia and redshirt-senior guard and forward Daniel Dingle combined to score 33 points and shoot 43.3 percent from the field, but the rest of the Owls’ starters shot less than 20 percent.
Dunphy used eight players in the contest, but didn’t get much production from his bench. Senior forward Mark Williams went 0-for-5 from the field and had a turnover in 13 minutes of action and senior guard Mike Robbins only played one minute just before halftime. Freshman guard Quinton Rose scored all five of Temple’s bench points.
Temple’s best offensive stretch came when Wildcats’ sophomore forward David Watkins left the game after he committed his fourth foul with nine minutes, 27 seconds left in the game.
Wildcats’ coach Bill Herrion had been using the combination of Watkins and junior forward Tanner Leissner to generate offense. Leissner was a force down low, contributing 12 points and facilitating kickout 3-point shots for senior guard Daniel Dion and Watkins.
With Watkins off the court, Temple went on a 7-0 run starting at the 8:21 mark to take a 49-48 lead.
Enechionyia scored five of the seven points on the run. On a night when most of his teammates struggled, he went 8-for-17 from the field to score 20 points. He only made one of his four 3-point attempts, but found success on mid-range turnaround jump shots in the post.
The Owls’ momentum slowed when Watkins re-entered the game with 3:58 left in the game. On the Wildcats’ third offensive possession after Watkins came back in the game, New Hampshire got two offensive rebounds to keep the ball on its end of the floor. Watkins eventually made a 3-pointer with 2:06 left to restore New Hampshire’s lead.
He led the Wildcats with 15 points in 19 minutes and made 5-of-7 3-point attempts.
“We would have liked him out of the game a little bit more than he was,” Dunphy said. “But he didn’t play that many minutes. He was terrific out there. He made shots at the right time. He was very opportunistic. But we didn’t do a very good job of switching onto him, which is what we talked about.”
Both teams struggled to score early. Even though the Wildcats led at halftime, New Hampshire only shot 34.4 percent in the first half.
A layup by Dingle with 12:28 left in the first half broke a stretch of more than six minutes without a basket for Temple. The Owls had another scoreless stretch later in the half from the 5:01 to the 2:28 mark.
“I thought we played great position defense,” Herrion said. “The game plan was to try to make them shoot jumpers over the top of us and see if they could make threes.”
The Owls hope to have a stronger start and execute better in their first road game of the year on Thursday against the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
“We said it in the locker room right after the game, we want everyone to remember what it feels like and go into practice with a different type of energy so this doesn’t happen again,” Enechionyia said.
Evan Easterling can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Evan_Easterling.