PHILADELPHIA, PA. 12/16/2017 – For the second time in a few days the Temple Owls were facing a local opponent, the Drexel Dragons visiting from West Philadelphia. The game evolved into a up and down contest that looked like it would come down to the end, and it did. Temple got three big plays within the last two minutes from guard Shizz Alston, Jr. and earned a 63 – 60 win at the Liacouris Center. Alston felt that sense of urgency in the stretch for today and the future.
“I definitely did,” said Alston, Jr. “Coach tells us each and every game has NCAA implications. I knew that if we lost this one there would be a tough time making the tournament. I really had to pick it up at the end of the game.”
In that critical span Alston, Jr. handed an assist to center Ernest Aflakpui to give the Cherry and White a 57 – 56 lead with 1:47 to play. After the Dragons tied the game Alston, Jr. took the ball to the basket, but missed the layup. He was able to corral the offensive rebound and converted giving the Owls a two-point lead with under a minute remaining. The Owls led for the rest of the game.
“I trust him (Alston, Jr.) late to make a good decision,” said Temple Coach Fran Dunphy. “He missed a shot and got the rebound and put the ball back in the basket. He is a good player and he can do more. I am happy he made that play.”
Drexel had a last shot getting to within 61 – 60 at the 15 second mark on a three-pointer by guard Kurk Lee. Forward Obi Enechionyia sunk two free throws for the final margin of victory, but Temple had to survive a missed three by Lee at the buzzer.
Temple started out playing well and were ahead 38 – 29 at halftime. They continued to play from ahead in the latter half holding a 48 – 40 lead with 12:37 on the clock. From there Drexel began their comeback that resulted in the Dragons getting the lead at 56 – 55 with 2:42 to play when guard Sammy Mojica hit a three-ball, his third of the game. But they could not hold the advantage.
“With seven minutes to play we kept chipping away,” said Drexel Coach Zach Spiker. “It is going to be, I hope, the hallmark of our team home or away whatever is going on we are going to fight. We’ll throw punches and stay in the center of the ring as much as we can. I thought we did that today. We had confidence. We are going to be a team that comes back.”
Alston, Jr. had a team-high 12 points and 3 assists. The Owls had scoring balance as all but one player scored. Five players had 8 points including Enechionyia who also contributed team-bests in rebounds with 9 and blocked shots with 5.
Drexel had three players in double figures. Forward Alihan Demir scored a game-leading 16 points, the most he has scored this season. Williams posted his 6th career-double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Mojica scored 11 points.
Temple (7 – 3) ended their four game homestand will travel to Georgia on Friday. The Dragons (5 – 6)have a quick turnaround as they host Quinnipiac on Monday at the DAC.
Written By: Glenn Papazian