WRITTEN BY: TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
PHILADELPHIA — Temple hasn’t been accustomed to double-digit wins on a regular basis this season, and even when the opportunity arises, it just never seems to last.
Despite holding a lead as high as 27 points in the second half against a feeble South Florida team, complacency and sloppiness on Temple’s end cut the score close. But the Owls still managed to walk out on top, 83-74, at the Liacouras Center on Sunday afternoon.
Temple forward Dan Dingle tied his career-high with 22 points, while the Owls (13-11, 4-7) have now won two consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 22 (Yale and NJIT). South Florida (6-16, 0-11) lost its 11th straight game, and remain the bottom feeders in the American standings.
“I think we were settling. We were complacent for some reason,” said Dingle, who made six of seven buckets from behind the arc. “I think we were on the back of our heels as if we were losing the game. But I’m just happy we got out with a win. Once we have teams, we’ve got to put them away. I’m confident we can do it. We’re capable. I truly believe in this team.”
It was the third time Dingle scored more than 20 points in a game this season, but as a fifth-year senior, the Bronx native doesn’t believe he needs to lead in scoring to make a difference.
“I don’t think I need to put up points to feel like I’m a leader,” he said. “The way I play each game is going to vary. I’m a facilitator, a defender — I set myself up when the opportunity shows up. But being a leader is just being vocal and making sure everyone else is good.”
Both Ernest Aflkapui and Shizz Alston Jr. scored 14 points apiece, while Alani Moore and Obi Enechionyia each scored 10. Temple shot 54-percent from the floor, with 12 made three pointers on 23 attempts.
“I’ve been working on my moves — it’s just confidence,” Aflakpui said of his career-high in points. “Coaches have been helping me out. They’ve been doing a tremendous job with me, and I just keep building on it. We believe we can beat anybody. It’s just up to us to work on it.”
The Owls’ hot shooting stroke came early in the first half, scoring the game’s first nine points which helped them maintain a stunning 46-23 lead at halftime. But South Florida quickly picked up the pace in the second half, outscoring Temple by 24 points to cut its deficit to nine, 77-68, with 1:50 left on the clock.
The Bulls’ full-court press was put to the test in the final minute, but Alston managed to make six straight free throws while Quinton Rose made a pair to put the game out of reach.
“We are a three point shooting team — that’s what we do,” Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said. “I thought today because of the ball movement, we made some pretty good shots. I think when we’re playing well, the ball’s moving and shots are able to be gotten. It’s important for us to get everyone on the same page. We need everybody. I think [Dingle] has gone to a different level. He’s playing well and I think he’s doing things at the right time for us.”
Bulls’ guard Geno Thorpe led all scorers with 25 points, while Tulio Da Silva tallied 18. South Florida outscored Temple 31-13 in bench points, and 34-24 in points inside the paint.
With seven games remaining in the season, Temple is hoping to build some much needed momentum heading into the conference tournament, especially if they want to be in the conversation for postseason play. Progress will be put to the test on Thursday night, when the Owls host Southern Methodist (20-4, 10-1) at 9 p.m.
“This is a huge week for us, really a challenging week,” Dunphy said. “SMU is just as efficient a basketball team as we have in our league. They’re very good on both ends of the floor. We had a terrific win against them here last year when we just shot it, so we need to play our best basketball this week, no question.”
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