On Saturday at the Liacouras Center, the Owls closed out the 2014-2015 regular season on a much different note.
Temple picked up a 75-63 win over UConn on Senior Day to finish the regular season at 22-9 and move one step closer to securing an NCAA Tournament berth.
“It’s a crazy ride, really. Just being here through the struggles last year,” Senior guard Will Cummings said. “Just seeing all the hard work pay off that you put in during the offseason with your teammates. It just makes this type of win more emotional.”
With the regulars back in the game, Temple would rattle off a 9-0 run to take a 15-8 lead over the Huskies, but UConn’s Ryan Boatright would begin to heat up as well.
Boatright would score eight straight points, giving the Huskies the lead back, and would continue to excel throughout the half.
Temple would tie the game up on two free throws from Josh Brown with 1:52 left in half, but Boatright would score five straight to close the half and send UConn to the break up 37-32.
Boatright would dominate the half for the Huskies, scoring 21 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the field, including 4-for-5 from beyond the arc.
Unable to afford a loss this late in the season, the Owls would be forced to make some adjustments at the half if they were going to find a way to stop Boatright.
They would do just that, switching Jesse Morgan and Josh Brown onto Boatright early in the half, and completely shutting him down.
“I was able to be aggressive [on Boatright with no fouls],” Morgan said. “Kind of press up on him and defend without looking over my shoulder. Just to have no fouls going into the second half was the reason I was [able to be] aggressive.”
With Morgan and Brown preventing Boatright from getting the ball, the Owls would begin to take control, gaining a 43-41 lead on a Quenton DeCosey layup with 14:47 remaining in the game.
“That was the plan,” Morgan said of dealing with Boatright. “Just to keep the ball out of his hands and make somebody else run the offense was our main goal.”
Temple would remain in control from there, stretching its lead to as large as 16 and holding Boatright to just four second half points in a 75-63 win over the Huskies.
“Everybody said this was a big game. We needed to win and we weren’t, so it was gut check time when you’re down five points at the half. The first four minutes of the second half were really the game changer,” Cummings said. “We really wanted to come out and make a statement.”
Cummings would lead the Owls in the win, finishing with 23 points and five assists, while Morgan would add 17 points in the game and some much needed help on defense in the second half.
Having reversed its record from one season ago, the Owls will now head to Connecticut for the AAC Tournament next week, as they look to inch closer to an NCAA Tournament bid.
“We’ve had a really solid year. I don’t know what peoples’ minds were like before the season started,” Temple Coach Fran Dunphy said. “But, I thought we had a chance to be pretty good. We still have a long way to go. We have a huge conference tournament coming up. Hopefully we play well and hopefully good things will happen for this particular group.”
Entering the clutch time of the season, the Owls won’t be looking to change much as tournament play rolls around.
“Just play our basketball,” Cummings said. “We just want to go in and not really change too much. Just go in with confidence. If you’re open, shoot the ball. If you’re guarding someone, make sure you’re guarding them and playing good defense. We really just take it one game at a time, not really change too much. Not put more emphasis on anything we need to do. Don’t put any more pressure than you need to, just go out there and play basketball.”
By: Kyle Babcock
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