Eyeing an upset of a nationally ranked team, Temple instead saw its frustration continue. Jacob Evans’ pull-up jumper with 0.4 seconds left gave Cincinnati a 55-53 win over Temple on Thursday night at the Liacouras Center.
Temple’s 6-foot-3 point guard Josh Brown had tight defense, but the 6-6 Evans made a clutch shot for the 19th-ranked Bearcats.
“He is a solid defender,” Evans said of Brown. “I tried to use my size to get a shot off.”
Cincinnati improved to 13-2 and 2-0 in the American Athletic Conference. Temple, which lost its fourth consecutive game, fell to 7-7, 0-3.
With Temple leading by 50-48, the Owls Ernest Aflakpui was called for an offensive foul while setting an illegal screen. Coach Fran Dunphy received a rare technical when a water bottle he had in his possession went on the court. Dunphy said it was a matter of fumbled fingers.
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“I am usually pretty good at grabbing the bottle, I didn’t grab it and fumbled it and went out on the court and one official came from the other side and said I have to call it,” Dunphy said. “The bottle went out on the court and I am usually pretty good about grabbing it and this time I lost my handle.”
Cincinnati’s Gary Clark made one of two technical foul shots and then the Bearcats took a 52-50 lead on a corner three-pointer by forward Kyle Washington with 1 minute and 59 seconds left. Washington, who began his career at North Carolina State, scored 13 of his game-high 18 points in the second half.
Still at 52-50, Aflakpui would foul out on a blocking foul, that came with just two seconds left on the shot clock and 32.3 second remaining. Clark made 1 of 2 free throws, increasing the lead to 53-50. Temple’s Obi Enechionyia missed a three, but Brown got the offensive rebound and Alani Moore was fouled while taking a three-pointer with 18.7 seconds left. Moore made all three free throws to tie the score.
Evans then hit his game-winner and the Bearcats had escaped.
“We did a better job than we did in previous games especially the first half,” said Enechionyia, who led Temple with 14 points. “If we played like we did when we played our best during the game, we would have won this game, but we just didn’t close it out.”
Temple had its best defensive half of the season in taking a 29-26 lead at intermission. Cincinnati came into the game averaging 80.9 points per game. Temple forced 13 first half turnovers and limited the Bearcats to 8 for 22 shooting (36.4 percent).
Enechionyia, who shot 4 for 22, including 0 for 11 from three-point range, in the Owls’ opening two AAC losses to Tulane and Houston, was a different player in the first half. He scored eight points and shot 3 of 5 from the field, including 2 of 3 from beyond the arc. .
The Bearcats are one of eight teams to appear in the NCAA tournament in each of the last seven seasons and this year that streak should extend to eight.
Cincinnati is a balanced scoring team with five players entering the game averaging between 9 and 14 points per game. The Bearcats make their mark on defense. They entered the game fourth national in scoring defense, allowing 59.1 points per game.
The first half lead was more impressive considering Temple leading scorer Quinton Rose, who entered the game averaging 16.5 points per game, was held scoreless. He would finish with two points in 30 minutes.
Then in the second half, Temple fell just short. The Owls have defeated at least one Top 25 team in 10 straight seasons through last year and will get one more chance at Cincinnati and two tries against No. 8 Wichita State.