PHILADELPHIA, PA. 2/13/2019 – Every game will be important for the Temple Owls as conference seeding and a possible NCAA Tournament bid will be on the line each time out. It will be imperative for the Owls to win especially against teams they lead in the standings. Reminder – the top four teams in the standings get a first round bye in the American Tournament in Memphis. The SMU Mustangs came in tied for seventh place while the Cherry and White were tied for fourth.
Temple stayed on the positive side of the ledger with an 82 – 74 win over SMU. Owls guard Shizz Alston, Jr. led the way scoring 28 points, three shy of his career-high. Alston, Jr. was 10 of 19 from the floor, 3 of 8 from beyond the arc, and was a perfect 5 for 5 from the free throw line. And handed out 5 assists.
“He was terrific,” said Temple Coach Fran Dunphy about the performance of Alston, Jr. “He led us in every way. He was flawless, his offense was terrific. He made good decisions, he passed the ball well, he made shots. We’re grateful for it.”
With just under 8 minutes to play in the second half, Alston, Jr. made a layup to give his team a 60 – 54 lead. It was the start of 13 consecutive points by the senior guard that sustained the Temple lead. His three-pointer with 2:24 on the clock made the score 71 – 67. It also began a 14 – 7 game-closing run for the Owls.
“It’s just part of the game,” said Alston, Jr. about his scoring run. “I didn’t realize that I had that many in a row. I was just picking my spots.”
It was a game where each team wanted to get the ball up. There was a total of 145 shots, 75 for the Mustangs and 70 for the Owls. Temple made 32 field goals compared to 31. Each point was critical. Also aiding the Owls cause was turning the ball over just 5 times which tied their season-low. The Mustangs had 11 miscues which led to a 14 – 4 advantage for the hosts on points off turnovers.
Temple matched SMU on the boards finishing one behind at 43 – 42, with the Owls having a 20 – 18 edge in offensive rebounds. Ernest Aflakpui had a team-best 10 rebounds, 6 off the offensive glass, his second-highest total for the season. Isiaha Mike pulled down 11 rebounds for SMU, 9 on offense to go along with his 14 points. Rebounds were a key in the contest.
“The game was lost on our defensive boards,” said SMU Coach Tim Jankovich. “Temple did a great job of exploiting a zone defense and got a lot of rebounds. That was the story. If we had a normal rebounding night we’d be a lot happier than we are now.”
Nate Pierre-Louis scored 16 points for Temple and he grabbed 9 boards. Quinton Rose scored 15 points. J.P. Moorman II filled the stat sheet with 6 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists.
SMU had four double-digit scorers led by Jahmal McMurray with 22 points. He had a 9-point flurry during the Alston 13-point run to keep the Mustangs in proximity. Ethan Chargois added 17 points and Jimmy Whitt, Jr. had 10 points. SMU is on a 5-game skid and have dropped 7 of their last 8 games.
The Owls improve to 8 – 4 in the American and 18 – 7 overall. Temple is in sole possession of fourth place in conference, a half-game behind UCF. Next up is a trip to USF on Saturday, a team that trails Temple by a half-game. The Cherry and White have become a team that is on and off the bubble, so each game matters.
“It’s just one game at a time, and I hope that we can keep winning,” said Alston, Jr. “The next game is very important. If we get that win, we’ll be in pretty good shape. Quadrant one.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian