Temple earns first postseason win in years with victory against UTSA

Temple Men’s Basketball survived a close ending against UTSA, and its 64-61 win Wednesday night in Fort Worth, Texas is the program’s first since 2018.

Zion Stanford scored 19 points in Temple's 64-61 tournament win over the UTSA Roadrunners. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

FORT WORTH, TX–  Temple Men’s Basketball had UTSA on the ropes in just 20 minutes, going into halftime with a 14-point lead. The Roadrunners stormed out of the locker room looking like a different team as they outscored the Owls by 13 points in the first 12 minutes of the second half to cut the lead to three.

UTSA went without a field goal for nearly five minutes after that point, but Temple was still clinging to a three-point lead with 41 seconds left.

The Owls had a chance to ice the game with 15 seconds remaining, but guard Hysier Miller was called for a backcourt violation, giving UTSA an extra possession. The Roadrunners had two chances to send the game to overtime but missed two game-winning attempts, and Temple survived.

Temple (13-19, 6-13 American Athletic Conference) defeated UTSA (11-21,5-13 AAC)  64-61 Wednesday afternoon at Dickies Arena.  This is the Owls’ first conference tournament win since beating Tulane on March 8, 2018, when Fran Dunphy was still on the sidelines.

“I thought we played really well in the first half,” said Temple head coach Adam Fisher. “It’s March — every game is going to come down to the wire. I’m really proud of our resilience. We didn’t fold when things weren’t going our way.”

Temple wanted to avoid another close matchup like its previous encounter with the Roadrunners on March 10. The Owls initially did that by jumping out to a 10-point lead seven minutes into the game.

Temple’s offense racked up more than 30 points in the first half for the third straight game scoring, stifling the Roadrunners. Guard Zion Stanford came off Temple’s bench for eight points in the first half, providing a spark for his squad.

Stanford became the focal point of the Owls’ lowly offense in the second half, finishing with 19 points, just one shy of his career high. Temple never trailed despite its struggles at times, and Stanford willed his team down the stretch.

“I’m extremely happy for him,” Miller said. “He’s my roommate, so I get to spend a lot of time with him. Seeing him on this stage, being a Philly kid, it means a lot.” 

Zion Stanford wears cowboy hat signifying him as the player of the game following Temple’s AAC Tournament win over UTSA. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Eight Temple players scored, but the three-headed monster of guards Hysier Miller, Shane Dezonie and Jordan Riley accounted for 15 points in the first half. Guard Matteo Picarelliknocked down the only two shots he took, and Temple’s offense was rolling toward one of its best performances of the season.

“We’ve tried to stay as consistent as we can be all season,” Fisher said. “Get better with practice, get better with film, get better each game. During [Temple’s 10-game losing streak], it was, ‘Are we getting better?’ I thought we really were.”

The Owls kept their hot streak alive after shooting 40 percent or higher in all but one game since losing to Memphis on Feb. 8. Temple shot 40 percent in the first half, but its biggest strength through 20 minutes was its defense.

Guard Jordan Ivy-Curry was missing from UTSA’s lineup after suffering a shoulder injury against Southern Methodist on March 2, according to UTSA head coach Steve Henson, and the Roadrunners couldn’t replace his scoring output. Temple blanked UTSA for nearly five minutes in the middle of the  half, and the Roadrunners made just nine shots in the entire period.

“In the first half, we were struggling so badly offensively,” Henson said. “[Ivy-Curry] would have helped us there. We’ve got some terrific offensive players. At times, we’re a terrific offensive team. But there was a stretch where we could have used a guy to get his own basket.”

Temple went ice-cold in the second half, allowing UTSA to mount a comeback effort. The Owls shot just 31 percent in the final period, and the Roadrunners used a 23-10 run to make it a one-point game with eight minutes left.

UTSA found their shot in the second, shooting 43 percent after the midway point. The Roadrunners drilled five threes to inch closer to the Owls, and guards Christian Tucker and Isaiah Wyatt combined for 17 points in the second half to fill Ivy-Curry’s role.

Forward Carlton Lingard Jr. was crucial for the Roadrunners in the second half. He crashed the board for seven rebounds and turned three shots away. Tucker and guard PJ Carter led UTSA with a combined 27 points.

Temple moved into the second round with its win and will play Southern Methodist (21-11,11-7 AAC) on March 14 at 9 p.m.

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