WRITTEN BY TOM HANSLIN
The Liacouras Center played host to its third overtime game of the season on Thursday night, as Temple rallied late to defeat Tulsa, 83-79 in overtime.
With the victory, Temple (13-8) improved their American Athletic Conference record to 7-3, and currently owns sole possession of first place in the conference standings.
“It’s a big win. We’re kind of on a run right now,” said Owls’ forward Obi Enechionyia. “This was big to pick us up and get back into it. Any time you can come back and win a game like that in the last few seconds, that’s a big win.”
The first half opened with a smooth stroke for Enechionyia, who scored nine points on five shots in the first eight minutes. His aggressiveness on defense would restrain production, as Enenchionyia was charged with two personal fouls, sitting for the latter twelve minutes. Owls’ guard Josh Brown would tally seven points, including two steals and four assists. The team would shoot a collective 11 of 31 from the floor (35%) with only three made three-pointers on 15 attempts.
Tulsa guard Shaquille Harrison led all scorers with 12 points in the first half, complementing his offensive efforts with six defensive rebounds. The Golden Hurricane’s season-leading scorer, James Woodward, was limited to only six points and five rebounds in 19 total minutes. Three-point shooting was also stagnant, as Tulsa drilled only one basket from behind the arc on seven shots. Both teams would head into the locker room knotted at 27 points apiece.
The second half would welcome a quick 10-2 run for the Golden Hurricane, extending their largest lead of the game to 37-29. Temple guard Quenton DeCosey did not earn a single point in the first half, but he gained momentum midway through the second with eight points, cutting the Owls’ deficit to 49-42 with nine minutes left.
At the five minute mark, Temple would begin to build momentum, as another Enechionyia jumper trimmed Tulsa’s lead to three, 59-56. In the closing minutes, both teams would exchange free throws, with the Owls forced to send Tulsa to the line with 10 seconds remaining, trailing 70-67. Golden Hurricane forward Marquel Curtis would miss the game clinching free throw, and in transition, Owls’ guard Devin Coleman drained a three-pointer from the left corner, forcing the contest into overtime with the score knotted at 70.
Temple carried the last-second momentum into the overtime period, and would score seven points to place their lead at four, 77-73 with two minutes left. Tulsa responded with another jump shot, trimming the deficit to 77-75 with 1:43 to go. With less than one minute remaining, the Golden Hurricane would tack on two more free throws, making the score 78-77.
On the ensuing Owls’ possession, Enechionyia would once again ignite the crowd, as he drained his third three-pointer, increasing the lead to four. But Tulsa would answer with a quick layup, trailing 81-79 with 15 seconds remaining.
Forced to foul, Tulsa sent DeCosey to the free throw line, where he would nail both shots to secure the victory.
“We stuck together in the second half and I thought that was big for our team,” said DeCosey, who scored 21 points in the second half. “We found a way to get it, and I think it does a lot to our confidence moving forward.”
Enechionyia finished with double digit points for the third consecutive game, tallying 17 points on seven made jumpers.
“My confidence is pretty high right now,” said Enechionyia. “It didn’t really drop off that much. I just wasn’t hitting shots. That happens sometimes, but I feel like I’m back in my groove.”
The Owls finished with 80 or more points for the second time in the last two weeks, and received a double-double from forward from forward Jaylen Bond, who tallied 13 points and rebounds apiece. Temple hit 11 three-pointers on 30 total attempts, and outscored Tulsa in bench points, 16-13.
Tulsa’s Pat Birt was the game’s leading scorer, as he earned 22 points and six rebounds, while seniors Shaquille Harrison and James Woodward earned 20 and 22 points, respectively.
Temple’s victory was also a milestone for head coach Fran Dunphy, who tied Hall of Fame coach John Cheney with 516 wins in Big 5 history.
“That’s the life that we lead in college basketball,” said Dunphy. “We’re just going to try to play the best we can, that’s all.”
Temple improved its home record to 7-2 on the season, and will host three games in six days at the Liacouras Center next week.
“We have to be ready in a very short period of time,” said Dunphy. “Hopefully this win tonight helps us with our confidence level.”
Although the homestand is on the horizon, Temple will look for its third straight win up against Central Florida in Orlando on Saturday afternoon.
“We are who we are,” said Dunphy. “We have an interesting personality with this group. And I hope this bonds us very, very tightly tonight.”