Temple (3-0) beat La Salle (1-2) 70-65 Saturday afternoon at the Tom Gola Arena.
La Salle attempted to redeem itself towards the end of the game as freshman guard Sherif Kenney missed a three-point shot, got his own rebound and then attempted another three with 10 seconds left in the game. This time, he made it and cut Temple’s lead to five.
On the ensuing possession, Owls senior guard Alani Moore II was fouled and made both of his free throws. Explorers redshirt-junior guard Scott Spencer then drilled a three at the other end of the court to make it a four-point game. This was the closest the Explorers got as the Owls retained their lead.
Temple led 55-34 with eight minutes and 39 seconds remaining in the game. From that point, the Explorers went on a 31-15 run to end the game.
“We got out of sorts,” coach Aaron McKie said. “We get happy and we forget about how we get these leads. I preach to these guys all the time about getting the ball from side-to-side unless the ball starts to stick. We don’t play well when the ball starts to stick and we didn’t move it side-to-side. At that point, it became a nip-and-tuck kind of game because they were just pushing it down trying to get shots up, made some threes and obviously got the game close. It really took us out of what we wanted to do.”
The Explorers made three three-pointers in the final 33 seconds. Kenney had two and Spencer had one during that stretch. The Explorers made 10-of-22 of their shots behind the arc in the second half after shooting 5-of-15 from three in the first half.
Kenney and junior guard David Beatty led the Explorers with 13 points each. Beatty made 3-of-6 three-pointers, while Kenney made 4-of-11 shots from behind the arc. Spencer also added three three-point shots on five attempts. All nine of Spencer’s points came from three-pointers.
“One of the things we talked about was moving the ball and playing inside out,” La Salle coach Ashley Howard said. “All things that I thought that we didn’t do a good job of early in the game and then late in the game for some strange reason, we started doing and got the looks we wanted to all game.”
The Owls dominated the game before the Explorers’ run at the end of the second half. Temple’s performance was bolstered by junior guard Nate Pierre-Louis who got the first points of the game.
Pierre-Louis stole the ball from Beatty and then made the dunk in transition. From that point on, the Owls built a 36-22 lead heading into halftime.
The Owls were 5-of-12 on three-point attempts and 44.4 percent from the field in the first half. Both of those numbers dove in the second half as the Owls were just 2-of-9 from behind the arc and 9-of-29 from the field.
Pierre-Louis and senior guard Quinton Rose were the only Owls to score double-digits. Pierre-Louis led the team with 21 points, while Rose added 18 points. Pierre-Louis also added 12 rebounds, giving him his fourth consecutive double-double, dating back to last season.
“I try to do my job every single day at a high level,” Pierre-Louis said. “I try to bring as high an energy as I can. That’s really it.”
The Owls led in steals again, earning a 12-8 advantage. The Owls also scored 21 points off 17 Explorers’ turnovers.
“We want to make people uncomfortable,” McKie said. “Our defense has been carrying us up to this point. We wanna continue to do that. I just try to get the guys to understand to be disciplined when you’re playing defense. If you impact them enough, if you get up under their skin enough, they’ll hand you the ball after a while.”
Even though Temple saw a 21-point lead shrink to five, Rose praised his team’s cohesiveness throughout the game.
“Just staying together down the stretch,” Rose said. “We’ve seen some early leads and teams made their runs, but we’ve stayed together.”
Temple will next play the University of Southern California (3-0) on Friday at 11:00 p.m. in Los Angeles.