NEW YORK –- Temple University started and finished Monday’s game the same way: struggling to make shots.
Temple (4-1) started and ended its 57-51 loss to Virginia Commonwealth University (4-0) in the Legends Classic semifinal on stretches shooting 1-for-10 from the field.
VCU’s defense gave Temple fits throughout the first half at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. At the second media timeout eight minutes and 20 seconds into the game, the Owls trailed 19-4 after committing six turnovers and allowing the Rams to sink eight of their first 13 shots.
With 10:31 left in the first half, VCU redshirt-junior guard Marcus Evans scored two of his game-high 21 points to give the Rams a 21-4 lead, their largest of the game.
When their “backs were against the wall,” sophomore guard Nate Pierre-Louis said, the Owls outscored VCU 24-7 to close the first half. The Owls grabbed the lead with 11 minutes remaining on a 3-point shot by senior guard Shizz Alston Jr.
“It showed a lot of character for our team,” said Pierre-Louis, who led Temple with 11 points. “We came together. We faced adversity. …We did a pretty good job of handling it.”
Pierre-Louis finished with a game-high six steals, five of which came in the first half. Temple’s defense helped bail out its offense by forcing 12 first-half turnovers. The Rams ended the night with 19 turnovers compared to the Owls’ 14.
Once Temple began successfully navigating VCU’s full-court press, it sustained offense in the halfcourt. The Owls committed only eight turnovers in the last 32 minutes, 48 seconds on Monday.
But Temple’s inability to make timely shots spoiled its chances at earning the win. While VCU advanced to the championship game on Tuesday night, Temple will play the University of California Berkeley in the third-place game.
VCU led by two points with 1:01 left when sophomore forward J.P Moorman II split a pair of free-throw attempts with a chance to tie the game. Evans responded by icing the game with a stepback 3-point shot with 32 seconds left to make it a 55-51 game.
The following Temple possession, Alston and junior guard Quinton Rose each missed shots from 3-point range. Alston and Rose finished a combined 6-of-29 from the field.
The Owls made 20 of their 62 shot attempts and went 4-for-28 from 3-point range in what was a “bad shooting night,” Pierre-Louis said. Temple recorded a 46.7 free-throw shooting percentage on Monday, their lowest since Feb. 10 against South Florida.
“I thought there were a couple of rushed threes that we had,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “We weren’t as patient as we needed to be. We needed really to be very patient against these guys. Our passing was not great early. But we weathered that storm, which I was very proud of. It would have been a great victory for us given where were early.”