Dalton Pepper and Anthony Lee were nearly at a loss for words.
The duo stood at a podium, answering questions from the media. None of their responses were longer than a sentence or two. Both men were clearly upset with themselves, despite Lee, a redshirt-junior forward, setting a career high in points – 23 and rebounds – 14 and Pepper, a redshirt-senior guard, getting 20 points and five assists.
“He means a lot to us,” Pepper said when asked about the loss of junior guard Will Cummings to a foul out. “He gets everyone where they’re supposed to be.”
Pepper paused for a few seconds.
“We should have won the game,” he added.
The Owls (4-4, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) fell 81-80 in an overtime game to Texas (8-1, 0-0 Big 12 Conference) on Saturday afternoon. Temple led with 1:32 to go in the second half and with 14 seconds left in overtime. At the latter juncture, the Owls seemed to have the game in hand, with Pepper going to the line with his team up 79-78.
Pepper made the first shot. However, he committed a lane violation on the second, stepping over the free throw line. The ball went in anyway. Texas sophomore guard Javan Felix hit a three-pointer with eight seconds remaining, and Pepper’s buzzer-beater missed to give the Longhorns the victory. The lane violation mirrored a play that happened in the Owls’ win against St. Joseph’s on Wednesday, except Lee was the one on the line. Lee missed the shot and successfully got the rebound, which helped seal the victory.
“Anthony got his, probably got away with it,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “It probably was on [Pepper’s] mind. Obviously, the ball goes in the basket. He didn’t need to do that. He did, and it’s just one of those things. I’m sure he feels badly about it.”
Temple struggled from the free throw line, making 15 of 31 from the charity stripe. Lee was the worst offender in that category, hitting three of nine free throws.
“It kills you,” Dunphy said. “[Texas] didn’t shoot it very well either, but we shot it more poorly than they did… It’s one of those things you talk about sometimes and you don’t talk about it other times. You just hope that these guys are going to step up and make them, but it’s one of those games.”
Texas had as much as a 16-point lead in the first half and went into halftime with an 11-point advantage. For much of the rest of the game, the Owls played zone defense, which helped them close the deficit and force overtime.
“I don’t think Fran wanted to play that much zone, but he was smart to stay in it, because we sure didn’t have an answer for it,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said.
“[In the] second half, we just didn’t do anything we did in practice,” Barnes added. “We had some lineups out there, trying to get through the foul situation we were in, that we’ve never had, never even practiced with. We got a little lucky there and Javan made a shot.”
Texas won the opening tip and kicked off a high-scoring first few minutes. The Longhorns went into the first media timeout leading 12-9 shooting 67 percent, while the Owls were shooting 50 percent.
Texas kept up its hot shooting, going on a 10-4 run over the next few minutes. With 11:58 to go in the first half, Texas was outrebounding Temple 11-4. The duo of sophomore center Cameron Ridley and junior forward Jonathan Holmes is the biggest frontcourt Temple’s faced all season, and the undersized Owls were struggling to outmuscle them.
Temple continued to struggle as Texas pulled ahead 36-20 with 7:13 to go in the half. The OWls started to get it together after that, going on an 10-4 run over the next few minutes, pulling within 10. Texas scored two baskets before the last media timeout of the half, going up 44-30 with 3:08 to remain in the half.
The Owls pulled within 11 by halftime, going into the locker room down 48-37. Pepper played all 20 minutes in the first half and led Temple with 10 points. Lee added nine points. Texas was led by freshman guard Isaiah Taylor, who had 15 points. In the first half, Temple was outrebounded 25-16 and outshot 51.4 percent to 41.7 percent. The Owls shot 16.7 percent from behind the arc in the half.
The teams traded baskets to start the second half, as Temple cut the lead to single digits multiple times before letting it slip back to double digits. After being down 11, sophomore guard Quenton DeCosey hit a three to make the score 58-50 Texas. The Longhorns got a basket on the ensuing possession, and freshman forward Mark Williams was fouled on the other side and made both free throws. Texas hit a three, and DeCosey responded with another three to keep the game within eight.
After each team went one for two from the free throw line, both struggled to score. With 8:41 to go, Pepper stole the ball and dished it to Lee for the layup. After Texas missed a layup, Lee was fouled and hit one of two shots, bringing the score to 66-60 Texas.
Temple continued to shorten the lead, getting to within three after a Cummings basket. After Holmes made one of two field goals, Temple tied the game for the first time since early in the first half with a Pepper layup. The teams traded baskets before the last media timeout of the second half.
After the timeout, Lee hit one of two free throws to give Temple its first lead of the game. Temple led by three until sophomore guard Demarcus Holland hit a free throw. After Lee picked up his fourth foul, Holmes hit both free throws to tie the game with 1:30 to go.
Lee traveled on the next play. Holland picked up his fourth foul, but Lee missed both free throws to keep the game tied at 73. Texas missed a layup on the next play, and Temple called a timeout with 24.8 second to go. Temple held the ball until there were 7.1 seconds remaining, when Texas knocked the ball out of bounds. DeCosey got the ball and could not get a shot to hit the rim in time. Felix got a decent look but did not score, so the game went to overtime.
Temple won the overtime tip, and Lee got the and-1 on the possession. He missed the free throw. After a tip-in by sophomore center Prince Ibeh, both teams struggled to score. With 1:52 to go and the score 75-75, Cummings fouled out. Texas made the ensuing free throws. After a Temple turnover and foul, Holland made one of two from the line, putting Texas up 3. Lee scored on the next possession, and freshman guard Josh Brown forced a turnover on the next play. Holmes then fouled Dingle, fouling out. Dingle made both free throws, putting Temple up 79-78 with 41 seconds remaining in overtime.
After a Texas timeout, the Longhorns dribbled around without attempting a shot before calling another timeout with 24.5 seconds to go. DeCosey was called for a foul, sending sophomore forward Connor Lammert to the line with 14.9 seconds to go. Lammert, a 90 percent free-throw shooter before the shots, missed both. Pepper was fouled on the rebound and made the first shot. He also made the second, but it was called off because he went over the line. Felix made a three pointer, and Pepper missed the shot at the buzzer.
Evan Cross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @EvanCross.