The Temple men’s basketball team (8-9) has had their fair share of games finishing on the wrong side of luck this season. They have had several games they ‘almost’ won. Most recently, they lost to Memphis (12-6) by three points in overtime on a buzzer-beater.
Memphis came into the Liacouras Center Saturday without a single road win in the month of January. It was the first time since the 1989-1999 season and thanks to a last-second three-pointer by junior Kareem Brewton Jr., they ended that drought winning 75-72 over the Owls.
Just over one week before on January 4., Temple had the lead over number 19 Cincinnati down the stretch in the second half in another game they could have won. Once again on the wrong side of a buzzer beater, Temple lost 55-53 off a game winner by Jacob Evans III with just 0.4 seconds left in the game. Another game lost in the final seconds.
Temple has had several down to the wire games, that had a few plays, calls, etc. gone differently, they would have continued the success they showed in the first three games of the season. Now sitting at just below a .500 record, it is a disappointing season so far for the Owls. They are a long way from their 3-0 start, including two wins over top-25 teams, to now be 10th in the American Athletic Conference with a 1-5 conference record. They are 2-2 in Big Five play, not only losing to number one ranked Villanova, but also to La Salle back in November. In fact, over the last seven games since their win over Drexel on December 16, Temple has lost all but one game.
Yes it has been a disappointing season so far looking short term, but there are many positives too. For one, freshman guard Nate Pierre-Louis had a breakout statement game, scoring 23 points in Temple’s loss to Memphis. In his first collegiate start he showed why head coach Fran Dunphy made the right decision to put him in the lineup.
Temple has several guys in a range of grades contributing. From Pierre-Louis and his fellow freshmen J.P Moorman II who sees some time, all the way up to redshirt senior Josh Brown, Temple has a wide range of talent. Junior Shizz Alston Jr has been a big part of the Owls offense. He was the second highest scoring Owl with 19 points against Memphis. Alston, alongside teammate and senior forward Obi Enechionyia played key roles in tying the score up in regulation to force overtime against the Tigers. On the boards, junior Ernest Aflakpui had a career and game-high 11 rebounds against Memphis along with his six points.
Another positive, sophomore Quinton Rose, will most likely be on time to shootaround from now on, after losing his starting spot to Pierre-Louis for tardiness. In fact, Dunphy may have made a statement to everyone so that every Temple player knows what is expected and meets those standards moving forward. Temple has had players’ only meeting, several Owls see minutes on the floor, and have contributions from many different players.
Overall, the Owls still have just over a dozen games remaining in the regular season. Looking at the non-conference opponents they have faced, Temple has pulled out some big wins over notable opponents such as Wisconsin, Clemson, Auburn, and South Carolina. Temple has had chances to close out games in the final plays of regulation and overtime such as their loss to Memphis. If they can find a way to correct the empty possessions down the stretch and tighten up their defense they may still be able to turn this season of ‘almost’ games and heartbreak around.