Temple men’s basketball gears for Dunphy’s final postseason push

In Fran Dunphy’s last season, the Owls are motivated to make a conference and NCAA Tournament run.

Junior guard Quinton Rose attempts a layup during the Owls’ 67-62 win against Central Florida at the Liacouras Center on Saturday. | DYLAN LONG / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The Liacouras Center crowd sent off coach Fran Dunphy with a standing ovation after his final home game on Saturday.

His players want to send him off with a deep playoff run.

Dunphy’s final postseason push will start on Friday in the quarterfinal round of the American Athletic Conference tournament in Memphis, Tennessee. Temple University (23-8, 13-5 The American) will enter riding a three-game winning streak including its 67-62 win against ranked Central Florida on Saturday.

The Owls are the No. 3 seed and have a first-round bye in the tournament. 

With a win against UCF and Wichita State’s win against Tulane on Saturday, Temple earned the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament. Temple will avoid potential matchups against Houston, The American’s regular-season champion, and Memphis, the tournament’s host, until the championship game. 

“We want to make the NCAA Tournament, but we want a conference championship as well,” junior guard Quinton Rose said. “That will keep up motivated going forward.”

Temple has a 26.8 percent chance to make the conference championship game and an 8.6 percent chance to win it, according to sports analytics site Dratings.com. Houston is favored to win the conference tournament. 

They enter projected to make the NCAA Tournament with a chance to improve their seeding this weekend, beginning with a matchup against either Wichita State (17-13, 10-8 The American) or East Carolina (10-20, 3-15 The American) in the quarterfinals on Friday at 9 p.m. 

Senior guard Shizz Alston Jr. and the Owls want to send Dunphy off with Temple’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since the 2015-16 season.

“If we get in, we are going to have a chance to make a great run,” Alston added after Saturday’s win. “Just how everything is lining up for us, how it’s lining up for my last year, [Dunphy’s] last year, how everything has been flowing, I think we have luck on our side right now.”

Head Coach Fran Dunphy fist-bumps a young fan after coaching his last home game at the Liacouras Center on Saturday. The Owls defeated Central Florida, 67-62. | DYLAN LONG / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The Owls improved their NCAA Tournament resume and their chances to succeed in the conference tournament with its win against UCF, which was ranked No. 25 in the Associated Press poll entering the matchup. 

After the win against UCF, the Owls are a projected No. 11 seed by CBS Sports bracketologist Jerry Palm and ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi.

To maintain its current projected spot in the tournament, the Owls need to win on Friday night, Dunphy said.

The Owls have a 66.1 percent chance to win their quarterfinal matchup against Wichita State or ECU, who will play each other on Thursday, according to Dratings.com. 

Temple grabbed road wins against both Wichita State and ECU during the regular season in part due to Alston’s 20-plus-point performances.

Alston scored 22 points in an overtime win against Wichita State on Jan. 6. Rose and sophomore guard Nate Pierre-Louis combined for 38 points against the Shockers. 

Wichita State senior forward Markis McDuffie and senior guard Samajae Haynes-Jones scored 24 and 22 points, respectively against the Owls.

“We have a lot of very challenging games ahead of us,” Dunphy said.

On Jan. 16, Alston scored 23 points and led Temple to an 11-point win against ECU. Rose tallied 19 points, while senior center Ernest Aflakpui recorded a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. 

ECU freshman forward Jayden Gardner led the Pirates with 27 points and four assists in the loss. 

Alston led the Owls in both of those victories, but Dunphy believes the win against Wichita State was when Alston solidified himself as Temple’s leader, Dunphy said. 

Alston scored seven of Temple’s 11 overtime points and caught Dunphy’s eye with his 3-point shot that extended the Owls’ lead to four points with 47 seconds left in overtime. 

“When we play Friday night, we are going to need to win the game,” Dunphy said. “That’s the only thing we’re worried about.”

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