WASHINGTON — The Temple men’s basketball team beat South Carolina, a Final Four squad in last season’s NCAA tournament, on Thursday with a 21-4 run midway through the first half, establishing control on defense that allowed for a marquee victory in the Owls’ best start since the 2012-13 season.
But Sunday afternoon against George Washington, coach Fran Dunphy’s team couldn’t generate a similar early rhythm. And perhaps more important, guard Shizz Alston Jr. said, the Owls suffered a letdown in expectation to endure a 71-67 loss at Capital One Arena.
While guard Quinton Rose (20 points) and Alston (18 points) helped the Owls erase a 15-point halftime deficit to tie the game at 61 with about five minutes left, Temple allowed the Colonials to shoot 60 percent from the field in the BB&T Classic matchup.
“We went in after a big win against South Carolina,” Alston said, “and we just didn’t respect our opponent like we should have.”
Dunphy hoped his players wouldn’t overlook their former Atlantic 10 Conference foe, as the Colonials (4-4) had beaten them, 66-63, on their home floor a season ago.
But he shared in their frustration at the first-half buzzer, clenching his fists and grimacing. Colonials forward Patrick Steeves had just scored in transition as time expired, punctuating a period when his team shot 68 percent overall and led, 40-25.
As George Washington players ran toward their bench, some raising their arms in celebration, the Owls (4-2) trudged toward their locker room. In the first 20 minutes, they made 12 of their 26 shots from the field, including only one of their seven three-point attempts.
“The critical issue is we dug ourselves such a hole in the first half that we were in scramble mode,” Dunphy said. “That doesn’t bode well.”
Dunphy called for a better defensive effort, similar to that against the Gamecocks in Madison Square Garden, and Temple rediscovered its poise with a 14-5 run out of the break. With 10 minutes left, Alston then started a 13-2 scoring stretch that tied the game at 59 at the 6:34 mark.
“We knew they were going to come out in the second half and be aggressive,” Colonials coach Maurice Joseph said. “Shizz Alston Jr., he’s a gamer and always making big shots.”
But Temple made one field goal after that, while George Washington, led by Jair Bolden and Yatu Watanabe’s 17 points apiece, rebuilt a five-point lead with three minutes to play and weathered Temple’s two tries from the perimeter to tie the game in the final seconds.