With a chance to likely lock up an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament on Saturday afternoon against #20 SMU, Temple would be unable to rise to the occasion.
After taking a two-point lead to the locker room at the half, the Owls would go ice cold in the second half, falling 69-56 to the Mustangs.
While a win would’ve likely been the final touch on Temple’s solid resume, the loss puts the Owls’ tournament hopes on life support and in the hands of the NCAA Selection Committee.
The day would start off well for the Owls. After being injured in Friday’s game against Memphis, Jaylen Bond was cleared to play and back in the starting lineup for Temple.
Temple would take an early lead, but SMU would respond with a 7-0 run before a Quenton DeCosey jumper gave the Owls a 19-14 lead with seven minutes remaining in the half.
The Owls would then be held without a field goal for more than 6:30, finally finding the basket with 28 seconds remaining in the half to head to the locker room up 28-26.
Bond would open the second half with a jumper to put the Owls up four, but the wheels would begin to fall off for Temple from there.
Bond would pick up his fourth foul with 16:57 remaining in the game, forcing him to the bench and taking a major toll on the Owls both offensively and defensively.
“It really hurt us when he picked up his fourth foul,” DeCosey said. “We knew we would have to go small so they hurt us a little bit on the inside getting rebounds, second chances, so that really hurt us when he went out.”
With Bond on the sidelines, Temple would begin to struggle, going ice cold from the field and quickly finding itself down by double digits.
The Owls would pull within seven over the final few minutes, but would be unable to get any closer, falling to SMU 69-56.
“You know, we rushed some shots,” Jesse Morgan said. “We weren’t very poised down the stretch and they took advantage of that. That's what they do well, they take advantage of your mistakes and they've got a senior point guard who's a leader, he led them tonight.”
After a solid first half on the defensive end, the Owls were unable to stop the Mustangs’ attack in the paint in the second half. Coupled with a 27.3 percent (9-for-33) shooting effort in the second half, Temple would be unable to keep pace with SMU in the potentially bubble bursting loss.
“Obviously I don't follow it as close as some others might,” Dunphy said of the tournament bubble. “The only time I see it is when I'm watching another game and I see a bubble team, Temple, and so I guess I have to believe whatever is out there that the prognosticators have it pretty much in tow. I think we've done a really good job this year. The hope is that we've done enough and that will be in someone else's hands other than me.”
Temple will now have a tense 24 hours, as it waits on the Selection Committee to decide its fate.
Will the Owls be polishing their dancing shoes Sunday night, or has their bubble officially been burst.
“Well, it's certainly the hope, did we do enough,” Dunphy said. “Again, it will be something that we don't have anything as a basketball team and the coaching staff and players, it's for somebody else to decide. Hopefully we did enough.”
By: Kyle Babcock
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