Senior point guard Will Cummings had been injured two games prior and Temple found itself in the midst of a two game losing streak when they visited the Bearcats.
With Cummings on the sidelines, the Owls would bottom out, being dominated by 31 points by the Bearcats to fall to 12-7 on the season.
“It was very difficult,” Cummings said of sitting out during Temple’s loss to Cincinnati earlier a few weeks ago. “Just sitting out any game, you want to be there with your teammates and competing at all times. Just the way they kind of embarrassed us at their place was kind of an eye opener and set a fire under everybody. We were kind of just hoping to come out here and make a statement.”
On Tuesday night, Temple avenged that prior loss, leading from start to finish, as they topped Cincinnati 75-59 to improve to 18-7 on the season and take one step closer to an NCAA Tournament bid.
“I thought he had a terrific game tonight for us in every aspect,” Temple Coach Fran Dunphy said. “Defensively, creating loose balls for us. Getting it to the rim. His passing was on target. He had a couple jumpers that he just stepped up and shot that I thought he had no doubt about it was going. In the game, I think he was certainly a key to our victory.”
The Owls would waste little time in letting the Bearcats know that this was a different squad than the one Cincinnati had manhandled just three weeks prior, taking a 15-5 lead just more than five minutes into play.
The Owls would remain in command from there, taking a 36-25 lead to the locker room at the half, as Cummings tallied eight points, three assists and three steals.
Temple would do much of their first half damage off of turnovers, forcing 11 Cincinnati turnovers in the half and converting them into 19 points.
The Owls would assert their dominance even more in the second half, stretching their lead to as large as 20 on their way to a 75-59 win, snapping Cincinnati’s streak of 27 straight games holding their opponent to less than 70 points, the longest streak in the nation.
“It’s another win that we needed to get. We’re trying to win every game that we step on the court,” Cummings said. “Everybody kind of told us it was an important game, so I just kind of figured it was an important game.”
With the win, the Owls improved to 18-7 on the season and 9-3 in AAC play, proving yet again that they are a completely different team with a healthy Cummings at the helm.
Cummings finished with a game-high 21 points to go along with five assists, four steals and three rebounds in Temple’s sixth straight victory.
“He’s great,” Jaylen Bond said of Cummings. “He’s our leader on the court. He’s our coach on the court. He leads us. He does the right thing at all times and makes great plays for us, so it helps us out a lot when he’s on the court.”
It wouldn’t be only Cummings who contributed for the Owls in the victory, as Bond finished with 16 points and Jesse Morgan with 12. It would be a balanced effort all around for Temple, as Quenton DeCosey pitched in nine points and nine rebounds and Devontae Watson added nine points and five rebounds as well.
With Cummings seemingly 100 percent yet again, the Owls appear to be a very dangerous team with March rapidly approaching.
But, despite compiling an impressive resume worthy of a tournament bid thus far, Dunphy chooses not to look past the Owls’ next game, which will come Saturday against East Carolina.
“Are we playing pretty well? Yeah, we’re doing OK, but we have to protect how we’re playing. The only thing we can think about is East Carolina on Saturday,” Dunphy said. “We’re not good enough to think anything further than the next step along the way.”
By: Kyle Babcock
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