The up-and-down Temple basketball season continued with one of the Owls’ more inspired efforts.
After being beaten by their largest margin Wednesday in a 75-42 loss at No. 9 Cincinnati, the Owls scored their biggest margin of victory Sunday night in an 85-57 rout of Connecticut in an American Athletic Conference game at the Liacouras Center.
Temple (11-10, 3-6 AAC) has a boatload of work to do to even get into the NCAA conversation. Yet the Owls own the nation’s top strength of schedule and entered Sunday with a respectable RPI of 46.
It’s just that there are too many L’s at this point, and, as the last two games show, too much inconsistency.
Junior guard Shizz Alston scored 18 points, sophomore swingman Quinton Rose added 17, and the Owls received a huge jolt of energy off the bench from 6-foot-4 freshman Nate Pierre-Louis, who scored 12 points and hit 5 of 6 field-goal attempts. Ernest Aflakpui had 13 points and Obi Enechionyia added nine points and 10 rebounds, eight on the offensive glass.
Sophomore guard Chris Vital had 15 points to lead UConn, but he made only 3 of 14 shots from the field.
“We felt like we had a poor performance against Cincinnati and wanted to show we are a good team,” Alston said. “We needed to get that win back.”
Temple knows that it has to go on a serious run, and that it will be a challenge with No. 17 Wichita State visiting the Owls on Thursday.
The Owls committed just five turnovers after having 20 against Cincinnati. .
“I thought on both sides of the ball we played really well,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said.
UConn, like Temple, is fighting for its life to be a viable NCAA tournament team. Like Temple, the Huskies (11-10, 4-4) will have to make a deep run in the AAC tournament, if not win it, to earn a berth.
“Fran had those guys ready to play, and we have to do a better job our next game,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said.
The Owls owned a 38-24 halftime advantage and increased the lead to 23 points when Rose hit a 10-foot jumper with 14 minutes, 8 seconds left to help put the game away.
Reaction after Temple’s 85-57 win over UConn beginning it’s Shizz Alston talking about bouncing back after losing to Cincinnati. Also coaches Fran Dunphy and Kevin Ollie comment. pic.twitter.com/e0wXT0FOi6
— Marc Narducci (@sjnard) January 29, 2018
As rough as things are for Temple, this is not a great time at UConn.
UConn issued a statement from Ollie before the game in the wake of reports that surfaced late last week that the NCAA is investigating the men’s basketball program for possible recruiting infractions. Ollie’s statement read:
“With regard to the inquiry directed at our men’s basketball program, I want to express that we will cooperate fully with the NCAA as this process moves forward as we are committed to promoting an atmosphere of compliance with the NCAA regulation.
“As we head into the final weeks of the season, our total focus will be on helping our team improve and reach its highest potential. To that end, we will have no further comment on this matter.”