Temple survives late scare to beat Tulane in American Athletic Conference tournament

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Temple’s Shizz Alston turns the corner on Tulane’s Colin Slater.

ORLANDO, Fla.  — The mind-set was more aggressive, the confidence at least for one night restored. Even an early hiccup, another rough start, didn’t cause Temple to flinch.

Maybe that Monday night dinner the team had, when they vowed to re-focus, be more aggressive and simply go for it, was what the team needed.

More likely it was a combination of many things, but this was a different Temple team than the one that limped home at the end of the regular season, losing four of its final five games.

With Obi Enechionyia scoring 19 points, Owls defeated Tulane, 82-77, in an opening round American Athletic Conference basketball game at the Amway Center.

Seventh seeded Temple (17-14) now meets second seeded and No.11 ranked Wichita State (24-6) in Friday’s 7 p.m. quarterfinal. Temple and Wichita State split during the regular season with each winning on its home court.

The win helps Temple’s NIT chances, but the Owls didn’t come into this tourney thinking of a consolation prize. In all reality, they have to win the AAC title to earn the automatic NCAA bid. That means four wins in four days.

For now, the Owls will take one for one.

The news wasn’t all good for the Owls. With 1 minute, 1 second left, freshman J.P. Moorman II had to be helped off the court after landing awkwardly after being fouled. He was getting his left knee iced after the game.

“I landed on it straight and it felt awkward and I think I hyper-extended it,” Moorman, who had 10 points. “I will see how I feel at shootaround [Friday].”

Enechionyia, hit 5 of 7 three pointers, scoring the most points since totaling 27 in a Dec. 22 loss at Georgia.

“I tried to be as aggressive as possible,” Enechionyia said.

Shizz Alston added 17 points and point Josh Brown scored 15 and tied the Temple career record for games played with 137, which he shares with Lynn Greer

Symbolic of this up-and-down season were the many different swings this game provided. The Owls, who trailed 24-0 in their 76-58 regular season finale loss at Tulsa, got down 10-1 against the Green Wave.

“We talked about getting off to a good start, but unfortunately we weren’t able to, but we didn’t put our heads down like we did in the last game, we just kind of came together and we fought back,” Brown said.

Tulane (14-17), which trailed by 13 points with under 10 minutes remaining, cut Temple’s lead to 78-77 on a  three by Cameron Reynolds (22 points), with 30.1 seconds left.

Alston then hit both ends of a 1-1 to make it 80-77 with 16.4 seconds left. Tulane’s Caleb Daniels then shot an air ball on a three-point attempt with Quinton Rose defending, and Brown then made two free throws with 0.1 seconds left for the final margin.