Freshmen center Damion Moore and guard Alani Moore II had some fun during their one-on-one drill before Sunday’s game against South Florida.
Damion, a 6-foot-11-inch center, jokingly held the ball high above 5-foot-10-inch Alani’s head before hitting a post-hook shot. Alani came back with a dribble through Damion’s legs on a drive to the hoop.
Redshirt-senior swingman Daniel Dingle ends every pregame warmup by taking a few half court shots. He sunk his final attempt on Sunday before scoring 22 points to tie his career-high in the Owls’ 83-74 win.
Temple (13-11, 4-7 American Athletic Conference) led by as many as 27 points in the second half before a South Florida 9-0 run cut the Owls’ lead to 11 points.
A 3-pointer by Bulls’ sophomore guard Troy Holston with one minute, 50 seconds left made it a single-digit game, but the Bulls never got closer than nine points. The Owls held on to improve to 12-1 when they score 70 or more points and win their third game in their last four contests. Temple allowed South Florida, which entered play averaging 61.2 points in conference games, to shoot 52.4 percent from the field.
“They made some tough shots, but they also made some shots that were relatively clean as well and we have to tighten that up,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “I thought our defensive first half was very good. I thought our defensive second half wasn’t, and we need to clean that up.”
Temple is now in eighth place in The American after Sunday’s game and Tuesday’s win against Tulane. The Owls’ four conference wins are against teams with a combined 11-33 league record. South Florida has lost 11 straight to begin league play and Tulane’s only win in The American is against the Bulls. Temple has beaten one team with a winning record since its win against Yale University on Dec. 22.
The Owls’ next two conference games are against Southern Methodist (20-4, 10-1 The American) and Memphis (17-7, 7-4 The American). The Mustangs received 69 votes in the Jan. 30 Associated Press Top 25 poll and beat the Owls 79-65 on Jan. 4 in Dallas. The Owls shot 39.3 percent from the field and trailed by 21 points late in the first half.
Temple beat Memphis on Jan. 25 behind a 22-point performance from sophomore guard Shizz Alston Jr., 16 points from Dingle and 15 points from senior forward Mark Williams. Temple held Memphis sophomore guard Dedric Lawson, who has 15 double-doubles this season, to 13 points and five rebounds. The Owls shot 53.9 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from 3-point range in the second half.
“This is a huge week for us, really a challenging, challenging week,” Dunphy said. “SMU is just as efficient a basketball team as we have in our league. … We need to play our best basketball this week, no question.”
The Owls will have five games left after their matchup with Memphis on Sunday. Three of the games are at home and three of the games are against East Carolina, Tulane and South Florida, all of which they’ve beaten.
The Owls are currently No. 85 in the Ratings Percentage Index with a 2-4 record against Top 50 teams. Temple’s NCAA tournament hopes might rest on getting an automatic bid from winning the conference tournament, which will take place from March 9-12 in Hartford, Connecticut.
“We want to win all seven games,” said sophomore center Ernest Aflakpui, who scored a career-high 14 points on Sunday. “We all believe in that. We believe we can beat anybody. It’s just up to us to work on it and prove everybody we can beat anybody.”
Evan Easterling can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Evan_Easterling.