Temple scored more points against Cincinnati than any team has this season. Temple matched its best offensive output since its last win and redshirt-senior guard Dalton Pepper led all scorers with 33, a career-high.
That wasn’t able to get the Owls (5-13, 0-7 American Athletic Conference) a win, as they fell 80-76 to the Bearcats (19-2, 8-0 The American) in a game where Temple was down 19 with 14:07 to go in the second half.
“Our first half was not great,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “We shot it poorly in the first half. There’s a little bit of fool’s gold in there because Pepper was going crazy. I think our offense was better, I thought we found opportunities to get it to the rim. We still needed to be more efficient in our execution.”
Pepper tied the game on a three with 36.9 seconds to go, but the Owls didn’t score again as the Bearcats put the game away with free throws.
“We we right there at the last play,” Pepper said. “It was tied up. They knocked down a free throw. We had a shot to win it. Maybe two [or] three stops here and there put us over the edge at the end of the game.”
Redshirt-senior guard Sean Kilpatrick led the Bearcats with 29 points.
“He lets the game come to him,” Dunphy said. “He forced nothing and I thought toward the latter part of the game we did some really good switching on him and also, I thought we tried to deny him the basketball as much as we could. He’s a winner. He makes winning plays.”
Temple won the tip, but junior guard Will Cummings threw the ball to redshirt-senior guard Sean Kilpatrick, who took it down the floor for a layup. After each team added three points, the next few minutes were sloppy on both ends, with the Bearcats taking a 6-3 lead into the first media timeout, thanks in part to their full-court press.
Redshirt-senior guard Dalton Pepper and Kilpatrick traded threes. The low scoring continued for the next 2:47 of the game, with each team scoring two points in that time. After two Kilpatrick free throws, Cummings hit a shot-clock-beating three to cut the deficit to 13-11 Bearcats. A jumper by freshman guard Kevin Johnson pushed the lead to four, but Cummings hit four free throws to tie the game at 15.
The teams traded baskets, going into the under-8 media timeout at a 19-19 tie, after which junior forward Jermaine Sanders hit one of two free throws. That kicked off a 12-2 Bearcats run, with the only Temple baskets scored by sophomore guard Quenton DeCosey. Junior forward Jimmy McDonnell broke the run, but committed a foul on the ensuing Cincinnati possession. Redshirt-sophomore forward Shaquille Thomas hit the layup despite the foul to take a 33-23 lead into a timeout with 1:48 to go in the first half. Neither team scored until the 32.4 second mark, when freshman guard Josh Brown completed a three-point play. Junior guard Ge’Lawn Guyn hit a three to extend the lead to 10 again, and the buzzer sounded with the score 36-26 Temple.
The Bearcats opened the second half with a 6-2 run, four of which were from Thomas. Temple called a timeout to try to slow Cincinnati down, but it didn’t work, as the visitors outscored the Owls 5-2 until the first media timeout of the second half. With 15:46 to go, Temple trailed 47-30.
Cincinnati slowly improved its lead, increasing it to 19. A Pepper three quickly followed by a Lee tip-in gave the Owls some momentum, but the Bearcats staved off the Temple rally with four straight points. After a TV timeout, the Owls went on a 12-4 run to cut the deficit to 10 with 7:43 to go, when Cincinnati called a timeout.
The Bearcats scored four straight out of the timeout, but Cummings answered with a three to make the score 71-60 Cincinnati. Two DeCosey free throws brought the score within single digits, and Pepper hit a three to make the score 71-65 Temple. Neither team scored before the final media timeout with 3:38 to go.
Brown hit two free throws to bring the Owls within four and senior forward Titus Rubles responded by making one of two from the line. Kilpatrick was called for a foul, and Lee hit both free throws to make the score 72-69. Lee was called for a blocking foul on the other end, and freshman guard Troy Caupain made both free throws.
Pepper turned the ball over on the ensuing possession, but Cincinnati didn’t get a score and Pepper was able to hit two free throws. Rubles made a layup with 1:22 remaining to bring the score to 76-71. After two Cummings free throws, Kilpatrick missed a shot and Pepper hit a three to tie the game at 76 with 36.9 seconds to go.
The Bearcats let the clock get down to the 7.2 second mark before drawing a foul on Lee, which was his fifth. Kilpatrick made both free throws, giving Cincinnati a 78-76 lead. Junior forward Jermaine Sanders blocked Brown’s layup attempt and Johnson collected the rebound and drew a foul from Cummings. Johnson hit both free throws to seal the game.
Evan Cross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @EvanCross.