Temple comes up short against St. Joe’s in Big 5 Classic

Temple Men’s Basketball kept close but could not overcome the Hawks in its 74-65 loss Saturday in the inaugural Big 5 Classic tournament championship game.

Hysier Miller had 10 points Saturday, but the Owls could not slow down St. Joe's offense en route to their 74-65 loss in the Big East Classic championship game. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple Men’s Basketball remained within arm’s reach for the majority of its matchup with Saint Joseph’s. Both teams battled in the Big 5 Classic tournament championship game, looking to claim the first title under the new round-robin format. 

Two minutes into the second half, the Owls seemed to flip a switch. Down 15 points, Temple needed answers — and fast — before the game got out of hand. The unit rattled off an 11-0 run during the next three minutes and brought the game within four points. 

St. Joe’s pushed back, extending its lead as high as nine points, but Temple put the nail in its own coffin. After guard Matteo Picarelli hit a three with nine minutes remaining, the Owls went without a field goal for seven minutes, and the Hawks put the game out of reach.

Temple (4-3, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) fell to St. Joe’s (6-2, 0-0 Atlantic 10) 74-65 at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday in the Big 5 Classic championship game. The Owls finished second in the tournament with the loss.

“I thought it was a really good game. I thought our guys fought, we got down early in the first half,” said head coach Adam Fisher. “We’re proud of our guys for their effort, and now we gotta turn the page after tonight and get ready for the next one.”

St. Joe’s forward Rasheer Flemming was the difference maker, making it difficult for the Owls to guard him all night long. The six-foot-nine-inch forward had multiple emphatic dunks and finished the game with 22 points and nine rebounds. 

“He’s a good player, he does good at getting open,” said Temple guard Zion Stanford. “He’s a big guy, so he lives around the rim and he can shoot a little bit, so he did good at knowing where his areas were and stepping out his areas.”

Stanford had his best performance of the season. The freshman has talked at length about wanting to represent the city, and he did in a big way at the Big 5 Classic. 

Stanford finished with 19 points on an efficient 7-11 shooting from the field, while also adding a career-high nine rebounds in the loss.  

“I just feel like I trusted in myself and trusted in my work,” Stanford said. “My coach has given me confidence to do the things I do. My teammates look for me, and they feel confident in my play. That’s just pretty much going in every day and believing that you can play on a big stage every day.” 

The Owls started the game slowly once again, hurting their early momentum. The Hawks opened the game with a 14-6 lead just five minutes in, and seven of those points came from Hawks forward Anthony Finkley.

Both teams traded misses and makes back-and-forth through the rest of the first half. Temple and St. Joe’s struggled to shoot the ball in the first half, as both teams shot around 30 percent from three-point range. The Hawks shot 4-13, while the Owls shot 4-14 from beyond the arc in the first half.

Despite the shooting struggles, the Hawks slowly extended their lead. A Flemming dunk capped off his dominant first half in the paint and gave the Hawks a 34-23 lead at halftime. 

The Owls came out of the locker room with newfound energy and opened up the second half with a 13-6 run, closing the Hawks’ lead to four points. 

However, Saint Joseph’s three-point shooters woke up halfway through the second half, and Temple was never able to get any closer. The Hawks shot 50 percent from three-point range in the second half compared to its 31 percent performance in the first.  

Temple kept Hawks guard Erik Reynolds II in check in the loss, as he finished with a season-low 11 points on an inefficient 2-9 from the field. However, the Hawks found other answers when it mattered most.

St. Joe’s guard Cameron Brown picked up the slack from beyond the arc, shooting 3-7 and finishing with 11 points. 

As the first Big 5 Classic comes to a close, the future of the tournament remains uncertain. However, both coaches and players expressed how much the tournament meant to the teams and how they appreciated the schools coming together to celebrate the city’s rivalry.

“I think it was a great experience,” Fisher said. “A lot of feedback as you go out for the first time here. I think it’s something that administrators will get together and figure out what’s best, and we trust them to do whatever they think is best. We liked it, it was a great format.”

The Owls will look to bounce back when they return to The Liacouras Center and host Bloomsburg (2-4, 0-0 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference) on Dec. 6 at 2 p.m.

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