After leading Memphis by 20 points midway through the first half, Temple University men’s basketball allowed the Tigers to come within two points with five minutes left on Thursday.
Temple, however, never allowed the Tigers to tie the game or take the lead, as it beat Memphis, 85-76, at the Liacouras Center. Junior guard Alani Moore II made a key defensive play with 29.4 seconds remaining and the Owls holding onto a seven-point lead when he stole the ball from Memphis senior guard Kareem Brewton Jr.
Temple’s (15-4, 5-1 American Athletic Conference) win reminded sophomore guard De’Vondre Perry of the Owls’ 76-59 win against the University of California, Berkeley on Nov. 20, 2018. Temple earned a bounce-back win after its six-point loss to Virginia Commonwealth University the day before.
The Owls lost to Penn on Saturday in their final nonconference game of the season and were looking for a big win against a Memphis. They entered Thursday tied for third place in The American with Memphis (12-7, 4-2 The American).
“We came out [against Cal and Memphis], we knew we had to win,” Perry said. “We knew we had to bounce back from a loss, get it back going, get another win streak going.”
Junior guard Quinton Rose propelled the Owls’ quick start by scoring 18 points in the game’s first 10 minutes, 20 seconds. Rose led Temple with 26 points and tied a career-high with five made 3-pointers. The Owls improved to 7-0 when Rose scores 18 or more points in a game.
Rose scored his 18th point with 9:40 remaining in the first half, but he did not register a point until the 15-minute mark of the second half. During that span, Memphis trimmed Temple’s lead from 18 points to 10.
The Tigers outscored the Owls 25-17 in the following 10 minutes to make it a one-possession game with five minutes remaining.
“All was said was we just needed to get it down to 10 before halftime, and we knew we could get back in the game,” Memphis senior guard Jeremiah Martin said. “It definitely wasn’t too much to overcome. It was a great start, they had the crowd behind them, so I am sure their confidence was up when they had the crowd going and Quinton Rose making 3s.”
Martin dropped 28 points to propel the Tigers’ comeback attempt. Martin’s filled the void of senior forward Kyvon Davenport, Memphis’s leading scorer, who battled foul trouble for the majority of the second half. Davenport finished with seven points on 2-of-8 shooting.
Senior guard Shizz Alston Jr. struggled for the second consecutive game. After shooting 5-for-18 against Penn, Alston shot 2-for-13 from the field and 1-for-7 beyond the 3-point arc against Memphis.
Alston’s only 3-pointer on Thursday came at an important part of the game. He made a 3-pointer with 2:20 left in the game to extend the Owls’ lead to eight points.
Memphis couldn’t complete its comeback attempt because it made just one 3-point shot on 28 attempts, Tigers’ coach Penny Hardaway said. Temple went 10-for-27 from beyond the arc.
The referees called 45 fouls during the course of the game. The Owls made 73 percent of their free throws, shooting 25-for-34. Memphis attempted 30 free throws and made 21 of them.
The most notable foul occurred with 4:53 remaining in the first half when sophomore forward J.P. Moorman II received a flagrant 2 foul and subsequent ejection when attempting to block Memphis senior swingman Raynere Thornton’s layup.
“They play tough, they make it hard for you,” Hardaway said. “They just try to be physical and it just showed. …I respect [Moorman’s foul]. That’s what you’re gonna get when you play Temple.”
After Moorman’s ejection and with senior center Ernest Aflakpui in foul trouble, the Owls depended on sophomore forward Justyn Hamilton for important minutes, coach Fran Dunphy said.
Hamilton, who recorded his second-highest minute total of the season, converted two and-ones and provided a burst of energy off the bench, Dunphy said. Hamilton finished the night with six points.
Hamilton and Aflakpui both fouled out in the second half, but junior center Damion Moore only played eight minutes because of his inability to secure rebounds he got his hands on, Dunphy said.
As a result, Perry played 26 minutes, some of which at center. He scored 10 points and tied a season-high with four steals.
Temple will host Cincinnati (17-3, 6-1 The American) at the Liacouras Center on Sunday afternoon. The Bearcats are on a five-game winning streak after defeating Tulsa, 88-64, on Thursday. All three of Cincinnati’s losses have come on the road this season.
“[Cincinnati is] terrific defensively,” Dunphy said. “We’re going to have to work our butts off to get decent shots, and we are going to have to play our best defensive game as well. …We’ll have our hands full, but I’m looking forward to the challenge like crazy.”