It was senior day at the Liacouras Center, and Will Cummings and Jesse Morgan made their last regular season games at the Liacouras Center count. The seniors combined for 40 points as the Owls closed the season on a three-game winning streak, beating Connecticut 75-63.
Temple (22-9, 13-5 American Athletic Conference) knocked off the defending national-champion Huskies (17-3, 10-8 The American) in a game with large NCAA Tournament implications. The Owls entered the game as the projected last team in the tournament field, according to ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi.
Cummings had a team-high 23 points while Morgan finished with 17. Cummings also had five assists while Morgan converted 5 of 7 3-point attempts. Both players had three steals.
At the start, senior Ryan Boatright led the way for the Huskies. The guard was in a league of his own in the first half, scoring 21 points before intermission, while converting 6-for-8 shots from the field. Temple deployed a tandem of mostly Cummings in the first half, and Morgan with junior guard Josh Brown in the second half to defend Boatright, who finished with a team-high 25 points.
Oftentimes in the second half, Boatright was double- and triple-teamed from as many as five feet outside the 3-point line, as he scored 4 points and had 3 turnovers in the game’s final 20 minutes.
“They didn’t make any adjustments,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “We can’t just rely on Ryan to step up and make plays.”
“I told Coach Trice I wanted to guard Boatright in the second half,” Morgan said. ““I was trying to help him out because he does so much for us. I was trying to take a load off him.”
Junior guard Quenton DeCosey added 15 points and led the team with six rebounds. Saturday marked the third straight game he has led the team in rebounds after doing it twice in the team’s 28 previous contests.
“He has really started to zone in on that, and we need him to rebound the basketball,” Dunphy said.
Entering the game last in the conference in 3-point shooting percentage, Temple struggled to find success with the long ball, shooting 6-for-20 (30 percent). Aside from Morgan, Temple made 1-of-13 attempts.
The game was heavily officiated by both sides, as the teams combined for 37 fouls. Both Cummings, junior Jaylen Bond and freshman Obi Enechionyia were limited by foul trouble for Temple. Three Huskies finished with four fouls, including forward Daniel Hamilton, the team’s leading rebounder.
Temple now turns its attention to the American Athletic Conference Tournament.
With the loss Saturday, UConn is locked into the sixth seed in the tournament, while the Owls will be the third or fourth seed, depending on the outcome of the Cincinnati and Memphis game Sunday.
Should the Owls be slated as the third seed, they will play the winner of UConn versus either South Florida or Houston. As the fourth seed, the Owls would play Memphis. Temple has not lost to either of those four possible opponents in six contests.
The Owls will play their first game of the Connecticut-hosted tournament in Hartford Friday in the quarterfinal round. Should the team have its name called on Selection Sunday, the announcement will come one week from tomorrow.
Temple forced 14 UConn turnovers while turning the ball over four times, as the Owls held a 26-6 advantage in points off turnovers … The game also marked senior day for Jimmy McDonnell and Nick Pendergast. The duo started the game and played a combined seven minutes. … Temple was outrebounded 31-27, as the team’s leading rebounder, Bond, was held to five total boards.
Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @ibrahimjacobs.