STORRS, Conn. — Lapses at the beginning and end of the second half cost Temple a game and a chance to ride some late-season momentum into the American Athletic Conference tournament.
Leading, 34-32, at halftime on Wednesday, Temple allowed UConn to open the second half on a 10-0 run. After the Owls finally caught up, UConn, went on a late-game burst to secure a 72-66 win at Gampel Pavilion.
Both teams are in the unenviable position of having to win the AAC tournament to secure an NCAA bid. At this point, an NIT berth is far from assured for either team.
Temple, which beat UCF, 75-56, on Sunday, fell to 16-13, 8-9 in the AAC, with Sunday’s game at Tulsa ending the regular season. UConn, which had lost four of its previous five, is 14-16, 7-10.
“We knew they were going to come out fighting in the second half, playing at home on senior night,” said Temple forward Obi Enechionyia, who had a team-high 15 points. “We didn’t get enough stops, make enough shots, and that is why we lost.”
The Owls also lost because they couldn’t stop junior guard Jaylen Adams, who had 25 points and eight assists while hitting 5 of 9 from beyond the arc.
When Temple beat the Huskies, 85-57, at home on Jan. 28, Adams shot just 2 for 10 and scored seven points.
“I thought we did a good job of keeping Adams in front of us the first game,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “We obviously didn’t do that today.”
Temple took a 54-53 lead on Shizz Alston’s three-pointer off the dribble with 4:55 remaining. The game went back and forth after that.
UConn took a 64-60 lead on a wide-open three pointer by Tyler Polley, but Josh Brown’s follow cut the lead to it to 62-60 before Christian Vital scored from inside, making it 66-62 with 54 seconds left.
After a Temple turnover, Adams scored on a layup and Temple missed three three-point shots and was forced to foul. UConn was clearly in control when Polley hit one of two free throws with 15 seconds left, extending the lead to 69-62.
Temple shot just 6 for 12 from the foul line, compared with 11 for 16 for the Huskies. The three-point area was also a struggle for Temple, which was 6 for 31, while UConn was 11 for 29.
The Owls also missed several shots near the basket.
“We had so many opportunities at the rim that we couldn’t take advantage of,” Dunphy said.
The Owls received great energy off the bench from three freshmen, guard Nate Pierre-Louis, swingman Dre Perry, and forward J.P. Moorman II. Perry returned to the lineup after missing Sunday’s game with an ankle injury.
— Marc Narducci (@sjnard) March 1, 2018
In the end, it was a great second half by UConn and a sensational game by Adams that were the difference.
“The second half was a gritty game,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “We gave up some things but also took advantage of them on the fast break and Jalen breaking down his defender and getting in the paint and making great passes.”