WRITTEN BY: TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
PHILADELPHIA — The last time a nationally-ranked Southern Methodist squad made the winter road trip up north to Philadelphia, the city was covered with snow, and the basketball court was covered with Temple fans by the final buzzer.
On Thursday night, there was snow once again. But that’s where the line was drawn on similarities between both trips.
Behind a 30 point, 10 rebound performance from Semi Ojeleye, the No. 25 Mustangs dodged the threat of another upset, defeating Temple 66-50 at the Liacouras Center.
Southern Methodist (21-4, 11-1) has won seven consecutive games, and will push for eight on Sunday at home against No. 11 Cincinnati. Temple (13-12, 4-8) which was looking to win three straight games for the first time since late November, committed 16 total turnovers.
“We’ve got to take better care of the ball because our margin for error is not nearly as good enough right now,” said Owls’ head coach Fran Dunphy. “There were a couple of plays that we made that we don’t typically make but we did today. We only turned it five times in the second half, but that certainly hurt us in the first half. We didn’t control Ojeleye very well either.”
The Mustangs finished the first half on a 16-4 run, and led 28-18 at halftime. Both teams struggled to generate offense 20 minutes in, but Temple’s lack of ball security handed Southern Methodist 11 points in transition.
With 7:54 remaining in the second half, Temple managed to trim its deficit to six with help from bench guard Mike Robbins, but a late 7-0 run from the Mustangs put the game out of reach in the closing minutes.
“Mike Robbins gave us really good minutes,” Dunphy said of the 6-foot-4 senior who scored five points in a career-high 14 minutes.
Temple was out-rebounded 49-32, and 15-7 on the offensive glass.
“Maybe the biggest key, at least in numbers, was our ability to rebound,” Southern Methodist coach Tim Jankovich said. “It’s not an accident, it is something the guys have bought into. I give Temple credit, I thought they defended very well, they made us uncomfortable at times.”
Ojeleye’s 30 points were a career-high, as he shot 8-of-16 from the floor and 10-of-11 from the free throw line. Add in the ability to tally 10 rebounds, and that’s a daunting player to guard.
“[Ojeleye] has the ability to shoot and play inside as well and he is a tough guy to guard because of that,” said Temple forward Obi Enechionyia, who scored just eight points in 37 minutes. “We didn’t get to the glass enough. We could’ve done that better.”
Shizz Alston Jr. led the Owls in scoring with 13 points, while freshman Quinton Rose attributed 12. Mustangs’ guard Sterling Brown also finished with 10 points, and was the only other player in double figures for Southern Methodist.
Temple shot just 6-for-25 (24%) in the first half, finishing 17-for-55 (31%). The Mustangs weren’t all that better, but 18 made free throws on 25 attempts made up for their shooting woes.
Six more regular season games separate Temple from the American Athletic Conference tournament in Hartford, Conn. On Sunday, the Owls will be in Tennessee taking on Memphis (18-7, 8-4), whom they recently beat in Philadelphia back on Jan. 25.
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