Written by: Jake Gabel
Photo by: Ajay Patel
Philadelphia, Pa – The game came down to the final shot as Damian Dunn’s buzzer beating three-pointer lifted the Temple Owls past the ECU Pirates 78-75. Dunn had a career-high 33 points to go along with his game-winner.
Tied 75-75, Temple got the ball back after a timeout with 15 seconds to go. Jahlil White got the ball to Dunn, who would iso from behind the arc and hit a tough step-back three over ECU’s Tremont Robinson-White.
“I told the coaches, ‘let me get the ball, I want the ball in my hands.’” Dunn said. “I got the look that I wanted and it fell. I wanted it to go up with no time left on the clock so there could not be any Hail Mary’s or anything in their favor.”
An isolation three from Dunn wasn’t the play Monte Ross had in mind for his team’s final possession. Dunn convinced the coaches to let him have the final shot.
“To be honest we were going to run a different action and he said ‘give me the ball coach’,” said Interim head coach Monte Ross. “You love when your players say things like that because they have confidence in themselves and it exudes from them and it gives you confidence in them as well. I’m glad he wanted that ball and asked for it.”
This was Temple’s second consecutive game with head coach Aaron McKie out due to COVID-19 protocols. That left Monte Ross as interim head coach and the Owls have now won both of those games. This one against ECU and the game prior at UCF.
Both of ECU’s top scorers came off the bench, with Alanzo Frink scoring 15 and Robinson-White scoring 14. Nick Jourdain was the second leading scorer for the Owls with 16 points.
Temple started the game off hot with a 7-0 run. Jourdain scored the game’s first points with a pretty and-one spin move leading to the layup and the foul.
ECU would answer right back however, going on a 25-10 run right after the Owl’s run. The Pirates were making nearly every shot during this stretch, going 12-13 from the field during their run.
The first half finished with a lot of energy and physicality from Temple. Back to back authoritative jams from the Owl’s Jourdain and Jermiah Williams cut the Owls deficit to four.
The next defensive possession for Temple would result in a technical coming from the Temple bench. ECU’s Tristen Newton would hit both free throws and make the score at halftime 40-34 Pirates.
At the half, Dunn led the Owls in scoring with 15. For the Pirates, Frink led them in scoring with 12. Frink’s 12 first half points off the bench was a season-high.
Starting the second half, Dunn and Jourdain both continued their stellar play for Temple, each scoring six points in the first eight minutes of the half. With 12:27 left in the game Temple took its first lead 51-50 since their 8-7 lead early in the first half.
Foul trouble hit the Owls late in the game, as their two main contributors Dunn and Jourdain both picked up their fourth foul in the last 10 minutes of the game.
“It got me more into the game. I had to really play smart and lock in and focus on defense,” Jourdain said. “We talked about at half time hanging our hats on defense, so I tried to be smarter and try to strip the ball and use my body.”
Monte Ross had to be strategic down the stretch when it came to leaving Dunn and Jourdain on the floor with 4 fouls each.
“What we tried to do was situational sub, where we go offense/defense when we could,” Ross said. “It got to the point where we took Dame out at about the 6:30 mark because he had four fouls, and then it got too late into the game where we needed him no matter what. So we just said ‘Look man, we are going to trust you not to foul, and just be smart out there.’”
Jourdain’s fourth foul put ECU in the bonus and led to the two free throws by Robinson-White that would give the Pirates the lead at 69-68 with 3:22 to go.
Temple would regain the lead the next time down the floor with a three-pointer from the corner by Jahlil White. Giving the Owls the lead back at 71-69.
That lead would not last long as Robinson-White would strip Williams and go up for a fast-break slam to give the Pirates the lead back 72-71 with 1:19 left.
Williams would get his revenge immediately, and kept the game on the seesaw. Williams would get fouled on his way to the basket and hit both of his free throws to make it a 73-72 Temple lead with just 1:06 remaining.
Dunn would be fouled with 28 seconds left and make both his free throws. With 15 seconds left Robinson-White responded again for ECU, with an and-one layup against Jourdain. The foul call was very controversial with the Temple crowd, and it resulted in Jourdain fouling out of the game and a tie ball game.
That led to Dunn hitting the step-back three as time expired over the outstretched hand of Robinson-White.
For ECU, they fall to 10-4 and 1-1 in AAC play. As for the Owls, they improve to 9-6 on the season and 2-2 in AAC play. Temple travels to Oklahoma to take on the 6-7 Tulsa Hurricane. The game is set for Wednesday, Jan 12 with tipoff at 7 p.m.