Written by: Dan Wilson
Photo by: Sam Cohn
BROOKLYN – When it came down to it, Aaron McKie and Jim Larranaga sent out their best fighters. Miami landed the final punch, defeating the Owls 78-77 in an instant classic at the Barclays Center on Tuesday night.
Miami guard Chris Lykes found himself in every little kids dream scenario. Clock winding down, trailing by one, with the game in his hands. The Owls had their best defender, Nate Pierre-Louis locked onto Lykes and when it mattered most, he jumped, sending Lykes to the foul line with a chance to tie or take the lead with just 4.4 seconds remaining in regulation.
“Coach likes to talk about shot fakes a lot,” Lykes said. “I know Nate pretty well so I knew if I could create some separation, I might be able to get him up in the air.”
The entire sequence was started by Nate Pierre-Louis grabbing a rebound off a Miami miss. The Owls junior guard was immediately fouled, missed the front-end of a 1-and-1, keeping the Temple lead to just a single point and setting up the heroic scenario for Lykes in the closing seconds.
Lykes knocked down both and with two timeouts in his back pocket, Aaron McKie elected to let the remaining seconds play out immediately.
Surely enough, the Owls got a shot off. Quinton Rose hoisted a three that was well defended, from way behind the line. Back iron.
“I didn’t want to call a timeout and give those guys a chance to get their defense set,” McKie said. “We prepare for those situations in practice. We didn’t get the quality of shot that I would’ve liked, but we did get a look. A tough ending for us.”
It’s particularly tough when the numbers start getting broken down. The Owls, a team that was 31.1 percent from the perimeter through the first nine games of the season, shot 40.6 percent (13/32) from three in the game. They held Miami, a team that shot 39.8 percent from the outside entering Tuesday, to 22.2 percent (4/18).
Temple out rebounded them 42-37, which included winning the offensive glass battle 11-5. The Owls more than doubled the Hurricanes in assists, 19-9; received a career-high 18 points from De’Vondre Perry off the bench and had three other players, Rose, Alani Moore and Monty Scott, enter double-figures. When it mattered, Miami simply made one more play.
“Throughout my journey [at Temple] it’s been about staying consistent,” Perry said following his breakout performance. “It’s doing the little things well and doing all the dirty work to get to this point, but I still feel I could get even better.”
Nate Pierre-Louis, whose late game mistakes proved costly, was a large part of why the Owls had a chance to win the game to begin with. His six assists and 14 rebounds were both game highs and it’s almost immeasurable what he brings to the table defensively.
With 35 seconds remaining, it was Perry who knocked down a three that gave the Owls a 77-76 advantage, their final lead of the contest. However, Perry didn’t hesitate to give credit where it was due.
“Nate put me in a great position to hit a good shot,” Perry said. “I had no doubt in that shot.”
One thing the Owls can work on, says McKie, is making the easy basketball play.
“I always tell the guys, make the play that’s in front of you,” McKie said. “A lot of those guys have a flare for the dramatic and sometimes it makes things harder than they need to be and cause things like unforced turnovers.”
The Owls lost the turnover battle 14-11 against Miami, in a one point game where every possession counts.
“There’s a lot you can take from this game, from beginning to end,” McKie said. “I guess you could say I’m a bad loser, but this is going to sting for awhile. We need to flush this game out because we have another one on Saturday.”