With five minutes, 20 seconds remaining in the second half, forward J.P. Moorman II assisted guard Nate Pierre-Louis’ fast-break dunk to bring the Liacouras Center crowd to its feet.
The connection between the two sophomores gave Temple University (8-2) a five-point lead on the way to its 65-63 win against the University of Massachusetts Amherst (6-5) on Wednesday. The win improves the Owls’ home record to 5-0 on the season.
Senior guard Shizz Alston Jr. recorded a career-high 31 points, allowing Temple to escape with a victory after trailing at halftime.
Alston, who scored 18 of the Owls’ 27 first-half points, had to carry the offensive load early with junior guard Quinton Rose sitting the final 12:40 of the first half due to two early fouls.
“[Alston] made some great shots and some tough shots,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “He made two threes that absolutely stemmed the tide for us a little bit, and we obviously did not play very well on either end in the first half.”
Despite Alston’s first-half performance, Temple trailed UMass by 10 points at halftime. In need of a second-half comeback, the Owls’ coaches told Rose he needed to be more aggressive offensively.
Rose answered by scoring eight points during a 14-2 run to begin the half. The run gave Temple its first lead since the first half. After five lead changes in the next two minutes, the Owls gained a lead it wouldn’t relinquish after Alston made two free throws.
Temple’s defense also played a major role in its comeback. The Owls forced 19 turnovers and had 16 fast-break points compared to the Minutemen’s two.
Temple held UMass leading scorer junior guard Luwane Pipkins, who averages 20.0 points per game, to 12 points. Temple forced the Minutemen to take bad shots from the 3-point line, where they only made 20.8 percent of their attempts.
Temple is 4-1 in games decided by seven or fewer points this season. The Owls lost seven such games last year.
“We are gritter this year, we do not want to lose at all,” Alston said. “We wanna make a statement, and we know we cannot make our statement losing a game like this at home.”
The Owls improved to 8-0 when either Alston or Rose lead the team in scoring. They are 0-2 when someone else leads the team.
Sophomore forward De’Vondre Perry only made 1-of-6 attempts and could have had better shot selection, Dunphy said.
Alston and Rose combined to make 16-of-34 shots, while the rest of the team shot 7-for-27 from the field. Rose, who scored 14 points, finished as the Owls’ second-leading scorer on Wednesday behind Alston.
UMass outrebounded Temple 42-32. Senior center Ernest Aflakpui was the only Owl to finish with more than six rebounds, which upset Dunphy.
Temple needs more production, particularly rebounding, from Moorman, Dunphy said. Moorman grabbed one rebound in 19 minutes against UMass. In the Owls’ last game, a loss to Villanova on Dec. 5, he didn’t attempt a field goal and had two rebounds in 22 minutes.
Temple’s next matchup is a neutral-site game against Davidson College on Saturday in Atlantic City, New Jersey.