Written By: Ray Dunne
With 11:03 remaining in the game, Temple faced an eight deficit and seemed entirely lost on the floor. The once raucous crowd was silent, trying to conceive how the team had been outscored by twenty-two points in just under nine minutes.
After back to back impressive conference wins, the Owls needed to respond quickly to avoid losing all the momentum they’d built over the last week. Then, the leaders took over.
Shizz Alston, who had struggled with turnovers and ineffectiveness in the early parts of the second half, knocked down a three. Following a University of South Florida turnover, Quinton Rose hit a triple of his own. Alston followed that up with a three point play of his own, finishing in the pain through contact. The Liacouras Center was engaged and the team was back on track. That push enabled the Owls to find a way to get the game to overtime and ultimately improve to 3-1 in conference play with a 82-80 victory.
“[Rose and Alston] kind of settled us…we’ll certainly learn a lot from this game today,” Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said. “We can certainly play better.” While the leaders may have relaxed the team at the most critical moment, the spotlight shone brightly on a pair of sophomores. Guard Nate Pierre-Louis led the team, tying a season-high with 22 points while forward J.P. Moorman came off the bench and provided a double-double (12 points, 13 rebounds).
The high scoring output is a just another is a great stretch of basketball for Pierre-Louis. The 6-4 wing has put up 20.8 points per game over the last five games all while constantly guarding the other team’s top guard.
Pierre-Louis attributes the success to “getting comfortable with [his] teammates” and them finding him in the right situations. His head coach seems to see a little more into that. “He’s finishing a little bit better, I think today he goes eight-for-eight from the foul line, he’s really doing a good job at that,” Dunphy said of the game’s leading scorer. “He’s just a confident kid…we’re asking him to do a lot of work on the other end of the floor too.”
The emergence of Pierre-Louis as a legitimate offensive threat and a lockdown defender is certain to draw attention of coaches trying to plan for the Owls. However, South Florida head coach Brian Gregory believes Pierre-Louis completes a historic trio for Temple.
“I’ve competed against Temple for a long, long time now…Those are three (Alston, Rose, Pierre-Louis) of the most dynamic perimeter players as there is out there and that we’ve ever faced,” Gregory said.
As for the other sophomore that starred for the Owls, JP Moorman had only his second career double-double in the victory. Moorman played key minutes after starter De’Vondre Perry picked up two fouls in the game’s first five minutes.
The 6-7 forward was incredibly efficient, scoring his 11 points on 5 shots, going three-of-four from beyond the arc. Despite fouling out, his past few games suggest that he may end up eating more into Perry’s playing time. With over 34 minutes on the floor, Moorman set a career high in that regard. While that much time on the floor could be a little much for a guy who is only averaging under nineteen minutes a game, Moorman doesn’t want to hear anything about fatiguing.
“You don’t have time to be tired on the floor. You can be tired all you want on the bench,” Moorman said. “Be tired after the game.”
As for the other side, South Florida was paced by an all-around great performance by Laquincy Rideau as well as a great offensive output from Alexis Yetna. With 18 points, ten assists, and an outstanding ten steals, Rideau became the first Bull to record a triple double since December 2006. Six of the game high ten steals came in the second half, carrying South Florida back into the game.
Yetna scored 24 points, leading the charge in the paint, where the Bulls became the fourth straight team to outscore the Owls in the paint. Dunphy acknowledged that the team is working “everyday” to address the issue of interior struggles on defense, but there clearly remains work to do. When the Bulls look back on this one, there certainly will be a lot of second guessing as to what could have been if they executed at the free throw line. The team finished 10-of-25 from the line, an ugly 40% clip. They came into the game shooting 62.1%, another not at all promising number.
On the other side, Temple shot 23-of-28 from the line, getting better at the line as the moments got bigger, shooting 10-of-11 in overtime. “At the end of practice, we have to shoot ten one-and-ones, I think that now that’s really transferring over,” said Pierre-Louis. “How we’re practicing everyday with free throws, late game situations…now it’s transferring over to the game.”
Up next, Temple will head to Greenville, North Carolina to face off against East Carolina. In spite of the 13-3 start to the season, Pierre-Louis believes this team has a lot more on the way. “Our best basketball is ahead of us, and, when it come, we will be scary.”