HARTFORD, Conn. - Temple's quick exit from the American Athletic Conference basketball tournament was a microcosm of its frustrating and inconsistent season.
The eighth-seeded Owls were bounced Thursday in the opening round by No. 9 seed East Carolina, 80-69, at the XL Center.
Picked to finish sixth in the AAC during the preseason, Temple ended with a 16-16 (7-11 AAC) record.
Temple's inability to defend capably against what had been the worst offensive team in the AAC did the Owls in. ECU entered the tournament last in scoring offense (62.3 ppg.) and 10th in three-point percentage (31 percent).
The Pirates (16-17, 6-12) shot 10 for 21 (47.6 percent) from three-point range and 50.9 percent from the field (28-55).
"We didn't do what we needed to do on the defensive end," said Temple forward Obi Enechionyia, who had a team-high 20 points. He later added, "They shot 50 percent from the field and our goal is to hold them at 40, so I think that's the biggest thing today was the defense."
Trailing by 10 points early in the second half, Temple cut the margin to 53-52 on Shizz Alston's jumper off the dribble with 11 minutes, 20 seconds left.
The Owls stayed within striking distance when Enechionyia's three-pointer with 3:48 left cut the lead to 67-61. ECU then put the game away by scoring the next nine points.
It was a rough game for Temple's two top seniors. Daniel Dingle fouled out and scored 10 points, shooting 3 for 11 from the field. Forward Mark Williams had three points and shot 1 for 7.
"I gave everything I had to Temple for five years," said Dingle, a fifth-year senior who is working toward earning a master's degree. "I appreciate [the players] and the coaches and now I am looking for the next step in my career."
That next step could have been a quarterfinal matchup with top-seeded Southern Methodist University, had ECU sophomore Kentrell Barkley not exploded for the second straight game against the Owls. The 6-foot-5 Barkley had 26 points and 16 rebounds.
In the Pirates' 78-64 win on Feb. 15 over visiting Temple, Barkley had 19 points and 13 rebounds.
Barkley entered Thursday's game shooting 32 percent from beyond the arc, but he hit 3 of 6 threes.
"He is really not a great three-point shooter, but he hit two or three threes and that got him going, increasing his confidence," Dingle said. "He is a heck of a player."
Barkley was not quite 100 percent. "I think I have tendinitis in my right knee, and when I jump too much, it's like a sharp pain," Barkley said.
The biggest pain was inflicted on Temple's defense. A lefthander, Barkley continually drove to his left effectively to the basket.
"He is one of the more physical players I have gone up against," said Temple's 6-8 freshman guard Quinton Rose, who scored 13 points and became the first Owls freshman to average double figures (10.0 ppg.) since Mark Tyndale in 2004-05.
For Temple, the story of this season was defense, or lack of it. Temple entered the tournament, allowing 70.9 points per game, which was ninth in the 11-team AAC.
"I was proud of our efforts in so many different ways," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. The only thing I would have liked to have done better is on the defensive end and been a better defensive team."