After a dominant first half, it appeared as if Temple might have an unaccustomed American Athletic Conference breather. Temple’s first three AAC games were each decided by five points or fewer.
A major stumble in the beginning of the second half turned this one into another nail-biter. Despite committing 22 turnovers, Temple eventually earned an 82-80 overtime win over South Florida at the Liacouras Center.
Temple is now 13-3, 3-1 in the AAC. Two of the AAC wins have come in overtime and another was by four points. The lone loss was a 78-73 defeat at preseason favorite Central Florida.
“Our best basketball is ahead of us, and, when it comes, we will be scary,” said Temple guard Nate Pierre-Louis, who had a team-high 22 points and is averaging 20.8 points in his last five games.
South Florida, which won just 10 games last season, is now 12-4, 2-2. The Bulls did themselves in by shooting just 10 of 25 from the foul line. Temple, on the other hand, was 23 of 28 from the foul line.
The Owls, who led by as many as 17 in the first half and 37-23 at intermission, found themselves down by eight with more than 11 minutes left in the game. USF made its first 12 shots of the second half.
“If you have truly a very good season, you need games like this where you somehow figure out how to win the game,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said.
Temple had a lot of figuring to do.
Owls senior guard Shizz Alston had an up-and-down game, with 20 points and nine assists, but he also had a career-high eight turnovers.
Many miscues came on steals by USF redshirt junior guard Laquincy Rideau, who had the first triple-double in Liacouras Center history. Rideau had 18 points, 10 assists, and 10 steals.
“I don’t think I ever played against anybody who had 10 steals,” said Temple forward J.P. Moorman, who came off the bench to contribute 12 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out in overtime.
Late in regulation with Temple leading 68-65, USF’s David Collins missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but teammate Michael Durr got the rebound and fed Rideau, who hit a three-pointer to tie the score with 28.6 seconds left. Alston missed a step-back three-pointer with four seconds left, and Collins didn’t come close on a long running three-point attempt at the buzzer.
Temple scored the first six points of the overtime, but USF kept coming back.
Alexis Yetna, USF’s 6-foot-8 freshman, who had a game-high 24 points and nine rebounds, cut the lead to 78-77 by making both free throws with 36 seconds left.
Pierre-Louis countered with two free throws with 27 seconds remaining. Yetna missed both free throws with 9 seconds left.
Rose hit two free throws with 6.7 seconds remaining, but Xavier Castaneda hit a three with 1.6 seconds left. Temple then inbounded the ball successfully and the clock ran out.
The Owls were coming off Wednesday’s 73-69 win over previously undefeated Houston in which junior guard Alani Moore and 6-11 junior center Damion Moore (no relation) both suffered left ankle injuries. Both were sidelined against USF and are listed as day to day.