Written By Tom Hanslin @tomhanslin
PHILADELPHIA– In the Temple Owls’ final game at the Liacouras Center this season, junior Quenton DeCosey put on a shooting display Wednesday night, posting a team-high 21 points in the Owls’ 77-59 win over the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in the National Invitation Quarterfinals.
With Temple’s third consecutive victory, they now advance to the NIT semifinals to square off against the Miami Hurricanes Tuesday evening at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
DeCosey drilled seven of eleven from the floor, including a team high eleven rebounds in his 33 minutes of action.
Wednesday night’s contest began with a quick five points from DeCosey, as the Owls posted an 8-2 run in the opening three minutes. The Bulldogs later responded with back to back buckets to trim the Owl lead to 11-9, but Temple’s offense sparked fire, as a three-pointer by senior Will Cummings put the Owls ahead 20-11 with 13:13 remaining in the half.
Midway through the half, both the Owls and Bulldogs were rapidly exchanging buckets, and Temple maintained a comfortable eight point lead at halftime, 41-33. Heading into the locker room, the Owls’ leading scorer was Cummings with 11 points and four assists, while both DeCosey and senior Jesse Morgan shot a combined 6 of 11 from the field for 18 points. The Owls dominated the Bulldogs 16-8 in points in the paint, as forward Jaylen Bond tallied six points in fifteen minutes.
The Owls collectively shot 15 of 29 (51%) from the floor in the first half, including 5 of 9 from behind the arc. The Bulldogs’ leading scorer was guard Erik McCree who was a perfect 4 for 4 from the field with 12 total points.
The second half started without the Owls missing a beat, as a three pointer from Morgan extended the Temple lead to 52-40 with 16:10 remaining in regulation. After Morgan’s jumper, Temple did not allow the Bulldogs within striking distance, as the Owls managed to contain a double-digit lead for the final fifteen minutes.
The Owls’ largest lead reached 18 points with 4:29 left, as one of the key second half contributors included bench man Daniel Dingle, who finished with seven points, five rebounds, and two assists in twenty total minutes. The Owls outscored the Bulldogs 36-26 in the latter twenty minutes, ultimately sealing the deal as Temple came out victorious for their third straight game.
DeCosey posted a double-double with a team high 21 points and 11 rebounds, while Jesse Morgan finished with 17 points and Cummings with 15 in his final home game in Philadelphia. Temple shot an exceptional 27 of 55 (49%) from the floor, including 9 of 18 from the three point line. Louisiana Tech was outmatched in the front court, as the Owls outscored the Bulldogs 32-22 in points in the key. Temple also earned nine points off of six costly turnovers by Louisiana Tech, eliminating any possibility of a late-game comeback for the Bulldogs.
DeCosey believed that his success was largely in credit to strong motivation and concentration.
“I wanted to come out confident and aggressive,” said DeCosey. “I wanted to help out on the glass and contribute in any way that I could.”
Head coach Fran Dunphy was also impressed with DeCosey’s performance, claiming that he knew it was going to be DeCosey’s best game from the moment he made his opening jump shot.
“It was [Quenton’s] best game of the year,” said Dunphy. “He was really solid and focused taking the ball down low and outside along the perimeter.”
In Cummings’ final game at the Liacouras Center, the senior guard still has an eye on an NIT championship, and realizes that winning in New York will prove the NCAA committee wrong.
“I made the statement that we are going to win the NIT, and I haven’t gone into any game thinking it’s my last,” said Cummings. “We want to make a point, and our job is to keep playing basketball and do what we have to do to win games.”
After being denied a bid to the NCAA Tournament nearly two weeks ago, the Owls were suffused with disappointment, but with Cummings as the unspoken leader, the team quickly rallied with three consecutive NIT victories, and Cummings believes his teammates are determined to cut down the nets in Madison Square Garden.
“We’re still the same guys,” Cummings implied. “We’re still competitive. Everyone has stayed focused, and we’ve accepted what has happened over the last few weeks.”
Temple extended their overall season record to 26-10, tied for the second-most wins the Owls have recorded in the last fifteen seasons. For coach Dunphy, he remains proud of what his team has accomplished so far this March, and continues to ignore the fact that Temple was not invited to the big dance.
“We’re grateful for having the opportunity to go to New York,” said Dunphy. “Our mindset is in a pretty good spot. Many teams are still envious of us for still being able to play basketball, and we’re competitors, so we’re going to compete.”
With at least one more game remaining in Cummings’ collegiate career, he believes that stepping onto the Madison Square Garden floor is the brightest spotlight there is in basketball.
“Madison Square Garden means that we’re still playing basketball,” said Cummings. “It’s the stage of all stages, and it’s where you want to be. I’m not satisfied yet; I still have two more games left to play.”
NIT Semifinals- Temple vs. Miami (FL)
Tuesday, March 31, 7:00pm. Madison Square Garden, New York City.
TV: ESPN, WATCH ESPN RADIO: WHIP Temple Radio (Pregame coverage begins at 6:30PM), 1210 WPHT