Written By Tom Hanslin @tomhanslin
Will Cummings scored 21 points with six essential assists as Temple defeated Memphis 80-75 in the American Athletic Conference Quarterfinals.
Both offenses began Friday afternoon in sluggish form, as the Owls trailed the Tigers 9-6 five minutes into the first half. Senior guard Jesse Morgan nailed Temple’s first six points on a pair of threes, and managed to swap buckets with Memphis in the opening ten minutes.
Midway through the half, Owls forward Jaylen Bond left the game with an apparent ankle injury after falling awkwardly on top of Tigers forward Shaq Goodwin. Bond did not return to action, but contributions from the Owls’ bench sparked a strong rally with four minutes remaining, posting a 19-5 run with efforts from Josh Brown, Devin Coleman, and Obi Enechionyia to help put Temple out in front 28-23.
With Memphis’ star forward Austin Nichols inactive for Friday’s contest, forward Calvin Godfrey complemented Nichols’ absence, outplaying the Owls’ frontcourt with 11 points and four rebounds that helped put Memphis back ahead 30-29.
The half ended with Temple trailing 32-31, while forward Jaylen Bond walked gingerly to the locker room. The Owls’ first half leading scorer was Jesse Morgan with nine points, including 10 total points from the bench.
The second half began with a style of play similar to the first half, as both offense traded baskets and were knotted at 50 apiece with less than ten minutes remaining in regulation. At the seven minute mark, Jesse Morgan nailed a jumper behind the arc in transition to put Temple up 55-52.
After contributing only four points to the Owls’ effort in the first half, Cummings awoke from a twenty-five minute slumber, posting 17 points in the final fifteen minutes that included ten points from the charity stripe. Success at the free throw line was an essential difference maker, as Temple shot a total 22 of 29 from the line, nailing their last 16 free throw attempts.
With less than two minutes left, Temple opened the gap, as both Cummings and Enechionyia combined to score 11 points over the last one minute and fifty-seven seconds. Late-second free throws sealed the victory for the Owls, their 23rd win on the year and second against Memphis this season.
GAME NOTES: The Owls now advance to the American Athletic Conference Semifinals and square off against the nationally ranked Southern Methodist Mustangs, the overall number-one seed in the AAC bracket. Saturday will mark the Owls’ third meeting against Southern Methodist, as Temple dropped the first two meetings in regular season conference play. Owls’ coach Fran Dunphy reached milestone win No. 500 Friday afternoon, the 59th most wins achieved by any coach in Division I Men’s Basketball history. Jaylen Bond is ruled as a game-time decision tomorrow afternoon.
WHAT’S NEXT: TEMPLE vs 20 SMU: Saturday, March 14, 3:00pm. Telecast on ESPN2, radio play-by-play on WHIP, pregame show beginning at 2:30.