Junior forward Obi Enechionyia collected an offensive rebound and passed the ball to sophomore guard Shizz Alston Jr. who called a timeout with 43.5 seconds left in Saturday’s game against Tulsa at the Liacouras Center.
Coach Fran Dunphy said he wanted to get the ball to either redshirt-senior swingman Daniel Dingle or sophomore guard Shizz Alston Jr. on a high ball screen coming out of the timeout. Instead, the Owls lost the ball out of bounds on a dysfunctional possession.
Tulsa took over with less than 15 seconds left with a chance to win the game. Golden Hurricane sophomore guard Sterling Taplin drove around Dingle with four seconds left for a right-handed layup on the other end of the floor to give Tulsa a 70-68 win.
“I actually didn’t see, but I think Dan was expecting somebody running to a screen and roll and nobody came and he just went right to the basket, ” Alston said of the game-winning shot.
Alston had a chance for a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. He quickly dribbled the pall past halfcourt, but his shot from the Liacouras Center logo fell short. Alston’s career-high 25 points were not enough to prevent the Owls (10-9, 1-5 American Athletic Conference) from picking up their fifth loss in six conference games.
Alston started the second half with eight points in the first 3:02. He euro stepped to the basket for a layup to give Temple a 39-37 lead, then made back-to-back 3-pointers to put Temple up by six. The first shot was a stepback from the left wing, and the second was a pullup on a fast break with an assist from freshman guard Alani Moore II.
Junior forward Obi Enechionyia drove to the basket, spun and dunked over Tulsa freshman forward Will Magnay with 7:39 left in the second half, sending the Liacouras Center crowd into a frenzy and giving the Owls an eight-point, 61-53, lead.
The Golden Hurricane chipped away at the deficit with a 12-4 run, scoring all their points either in the paint or at the free throw line. Redshirt-junior forward Junior Etou started it with four free throws and a layup. Taplin’s layup and converted and-one opportunity tied the game at 65 with 4:34 left. Etou led Tulsa’s three double figure scorers with 15 points to go with his nine rebounds. He was a perfect 6-for-6 from the charity stripe.
Temple played a small lineup for part of the second half, especially after sophomore center Ernest Aflakpui committed his fourth foul and with 13:22 left and freshman guard Quinton Rose subbed in for freshman center Damion Moore with 12:34 remaining. Tulsa outscored Temple 32-22 in the paint.
“I thought they just drove it to the rim on us, a lot of straight line driving and we didn’t go a good job of keeping people in front of us,” Dunphy said. “So that was as big a factor I thought today. I thought we did a decent job early in that second half. I thought we were really pretty good up until the last eight minutes of the game, defensively in the second half.”
After leading all scorers with 11 first-half points, Tulsa senior guard Pat Birt didn’t score until the 2:50 mark of the second half when he hit a 3-pointer to give the Golden Hurricane a three-point lead. Sophomore guard Shizz Alston Jr. answered with a 3-pointer on the other end for Temple’s only points in the final four and a half minutes.
Enechionyia finished with 15 points and four rebounds. He was 5-for-10 from the field after making three of his 17 shot attempts in Wednesday night’s loss to Connecticut. Dingle also had double figures with 14 points to go with eight boards. Rose struggled, only scoring three points on 0-of-5 shooting from the field.
Birt put his stamp on the first half. With 57 seconds left, he intercepted Moore’s pass and took it the other way to set up a dunk by redshirt-junior forward TK Edogi.
Birt only had one assist in the first half, but he created offense by filling the basket. He dropped 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting, including three 3-pointers. Birt’s first 3-pointer started a 13-3 run for Tulsa that turned its early five-point deficit into a 27-22 lead with 8:03 left in the first half.
The Golden Hurricane closed out the half with a three-point lead after shooting 50 percent of the field. Ten of the team’s 13 field goals were assisted.
Temple’s next game is on the road Wednesday against Cincinnati. The Owls started their conference schedule with a loss to the Bearcats at the Liacouras Center.
“People know how to play us and are doing some things to us that we have to make better adjustments to, and so we’re struggling right now,” Dunphy said. “And now we got Cincinnati to go to on Wednesday who is arguably the best team in our league and we played them well when we had them here a couple weeks ago but we needed to do better to find a way to win that game. We’re going to have to find a way on Wednesday.”
Evan Easterling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Evan_Easterling. Follow The Temple News on Twitter @TheTempleNews and @TTN_Sports.