Winning streak has Temple men’s basketball on the bubble

Freshman guard Nate Pierre-Louis (right) attempts a layup through contact from East Carolina freshman guard K.J. Davis during Temple’s 90-73 win against the Pirates on Wednesday at the Liacouras Center. | SYDNEY SCHAEFER / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple’s win against Tulsa on Jan. 17 could be seen as a turning point.

Before the Owls’ 59-58 win against the Golden Hurricane at the Liacouras Center, they’d lost six of their past seven games. Five of the losses were against American Athletic Conference opponents. After the win against Tulsa, Temple stood at 10th place in The American.

Now, Temple (15-10, 7-6 The American) has won seven of its past eight games, including the game against Tulsa. The Owls have won their past five games with an average of 82.4 points per game and a plus-25 turnover margin. During the streak, Temple scored 80 or more points in four straight games for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

“At this point in time, you got to win games,” coach Fran Dunphy said after Wednesday’s 90-73 win against East Carolina. “And we’re grateful for our run here, but there’s no assurances that it continues unless we do a really good job on both ends of the floor and practice well and understand what our jobs are.”

Temple’s recent resurgence has moved it into fifth place in The American, two spots higher than the preseason coaches’ poll projected it to finish. The Owls are just half a game behind fourth-place Tulsa, which they’ll face again on March 4 to close the regular season.

Temple’s NCAA Tournament hopes are alive and well. As of Monday, Temple is projected to finish the regular season with a 17-13 record and has a 53 percent chance of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, according to TeamRankings.com. The Owls lead The American with three wins against teams ranked in the top 25 of the Ratings Percentage Index.

Temple also has games remaining against Wichita State, the No. 19 team in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll and the No. 20 team in the RPI, and Houston, which is a No. 10 seed in ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s latest projection.

Temple is one of the first eight teams on the outside of the bracket looking in, according to Lunardi’s calculations.

The Owls’ five-game winning streak has them back on the bubble. Who have been key contributors during the streak?

SOPHOMORE GUARD
QUINTON ROSE

Rose had his first game with 20 or more points since Jan. 10 against East Carolina. He scored 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field and 3-of-5 attempts from 3-point range.

Rose is Temple’s leading scorer with 14.9 points per game and has increased his production during Temple’s five-game winning streak.

Rose has made 48.5 percent of his field-goal attempts and 42.9 percent of his 3-point attempts during the past five games. He has averaged 18.2 points per game during that span.

JUNIOR GUARD
SHIZZ ALSTON JR.

Alston has shot 42.6 percent from the field in the past five games, and he has facilitated for his teammates on the offensive end.

Alston averaged 4.1 assists per game last season. With the return of redshirt-senior guard Josh Brown to the court, which has altered Alston’s role, his assists average has decreased to a shade more than three assists per game this season. In the past five games, Alston has averaged 5.8 assists and less than one turnover per game.

Alston followed his career-high 10-assist game against Tulane on Feb. 4 with seven assists against East Carolina. He then scored 19 points on Saturday against South Florida.

REDSHIRT-SENIOR
GUARD JOSH BROWN

Brown has averaged 12 points per game during the five-game winning streak and shot 50 percent from 3-point range. He matched his career-high 17 points against East Carolina.

Brown scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds on Saturday against South Florida. He is averaging a career-high 8.8 points per game this season.

FRESHMAN GUARD
NATE PIERRE-LOUIS

Pierre-Louis has provided scoring off the bench with an average of 11.2 points in the past five games. He has shot 60 percent from the field in the past five games and 75 percent on 2-point field-goal attempts.

His run of four straight double-figure scoring games ended on Saturday against South Florida.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Five games remain, starting with a road game against No. 19 Wichita State on Thursday. The Owls upset the Shockers, 81-79, in overtime on Feb. 1 at the Liacouras Center. Wichita State is 11-2 at home with only one conference loss to Southern Methodist. The Shockers’ only other home loss came to No. 23 University of Oklahoma.

Temple will then play its last two home games of the season against Houston on Sunday and Central Florida on Feb. 25. Both teams beat Temple earlier this season.

Evan Easterling
can be reached at evan.easterling@temple.edu Or you can follow Evan on Twitter @Evan_Easterling Follow The Temple News @TheTempleNews

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