Wichita State upsets Temple men’s basketball, hurts Owls’ tourney chances

Temple struggled in the second half of its 80-74 loss to Wichita State in the American Athletic Conference tournament quarterfinals in Memphis, Tennessee on Friday.

The Owls' bench erupts during their 67-62 victory over the UCF Knights at the Liacouras Center on Saturday. | JUSTIN OAKES / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University could have spoiled its NCAA Tournament hopes on Friday.

The Owls (23-9, 13-5 American Athletic Conference) fell to Wichita State, 80-74, in the conference tournament quarterfinals in Memphis, Tennessee, on Friday. Temple entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed and earned a first-round bye, but it couldn’t advance and improve it’s NCAA Tournament case.

Before the loss, Temple sat comfortably as a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament, according to CBS Sports bracketologist Jerry Palm’s projection. After the loss, the Owls dropped to a No. 11 seed in Palm’s field, while ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi lists Temple as one of the last four teams into the tournament.

Depending on the results of other Division I conference championships, the Owls could miss the NCAA Tournament. They’ll learn their postseason fate on Selection Sunday.

Wichita State (19-13, 10-8 The American), which entered the tournament as the No. 6 seed, took advantage of Temple’s sluggish second half en route to the upset win.

The Owls went scoreless during a four-minute stretch midway through the second half. During that stretch, Temple recorded four turnovers and missed two shots, allowing the Shockers to gain a nine-point lead.

After the Owls cut their deficit to six points with four minutes, 58 seconds remaining in the game, senior guard Shizz Alston Jr. was assessed a technical foul. Wichita State senior forward Markis McDuffie made both technical free throws to stretch the Shockers’ lead to eight.

McDuffie scored a career-high 34 points, including 19 points in the second half. McDuffie went 12-for-13 from the free-throw line, making eight of them in the game’s final 10 minutes.

Wichita State freshman guard Dexter Dennis recorded 17 of his 19 points in the second half. Dennis and McDuffie hauled in 12 rebounds each.

The Owls held a 37-35 lead at halftime behind Alston’s 18 first-half points. Alston missed all six shots he took in the second half and finished the game with 20 points.

Senior center Ernest Aflakpui scored 16 points and grabbed 19 rebounds to record his fourth double-double this season. Junior guard Quinton Rose had 17 points on 6-of-16 shooting. Sophomore guard Nate Pierre-Louis added 11 points on 2-of-9 shooting.

Temple will have to wait for the remaining Division I conference championships to conclude before it finds out their postseason fate on Sunday. The Owls will be selected to play in either the NCAA Tournament or the National Invitation Tournament. Temple last played in the NCAA Tournament during the 2015-16 season. Last season, the Owls lost to eventual NIT champion Penn State in the first round of the competition.

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