Freshman guard Nate Pierre-Louis scored 23 points in an overtime loss to Memphis. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Optimism was just starting to return to Temple’s season before the ball left Kareem Brewton Jr.’s hands.
All that was left between an overtime win against Memphis and the team’s first consecutive victories since early December was a desperation shot at the buzzer.
As Brewton released the ball with 2.4 seconds showing on the clock, a Temple fan courtside stood up out of his seat. Moments later, Brewton’s shot swished through the net. The fan’s hands went to his head in disbelief before he instructed those with him that it was time to leave.
The reaction to Temple’s 75-72 loss to Memphis on Saturday was one many Temple fans have had not just to this game, but to this season in general.
What started with so much hope—three straight victories, including two against teams now in the Top 25—derailed rather quickly for the Owls (8-9, 1-5 American Athletic Conference).
“To be honest, this one really hurts,” freshman guard Nate Pierre-Louis said. “We were down, they fought back and the guy made a lucky shot. This loss really hurts because we have big plans.”
The Owls are no stranger to heartbreak at the buzzer.
Just last week, they let a Top 25 win slip through their fingers at home against Cincinnati. Temple held an eight-point lead late in the fourth quarter, but Cincinnati chipped away and Jacob Evans hit a last-second jumper to win it for the Bearcats.
Looking back at this one, there are several moments the Owls surely would like to have back.
To start with, Temple went without a point from the 18:21 mark in the second half to the 11:29 mark, turning a five-point lead into an eight-point deficit. A personal 9-0 run by Pierre-Louis, who scored career-high 23 points in the win, bailed the Owls out, and put Temple back up one.
Next, the Owls’ defense let them down as Cincinnati scored 10 straight points in a three and a half minute stretch to go up by nine. Threes by sophomore guard Shizz Alston Jr. and senior forward Obi Enechionyia in the final minutes helped send the game to overtime, but the Owls missed two opportunities to take the lead late in regulation.
“We can’t keep letting games come down to the last shot,” Alston said. “We gotta start putting teams away. It doesn’t com down to one play, but there’s a couple plays in there where we could have affected this game, so it wouldn’t have to come down to that shot.”
Pierre-Louis, who started for sophomore Quinton Rose after Rose was late to shootaround, drilled a three from the top of the key with 48 seconds left to give Temple a 72-68 lead in overtime.
It was the last basket of the game for Temple. Memphis guard Jeremiah Martin grabbed an offensive rebound over two Temple defenders and scored to make it 72-70 with 28 seconds left. Alani Moore II, in the game to knock down free throws, missed the front end of a one-and-one to set up Brewton’s heroics.
Even on the final possession everything went wrong for Temple. The Owls blocked a Martin layup, but the ball rolled out of bounds, giving Memphis another chance at the game-winner with 11 seconds left.
The ball slipped out of Brewton's hands before it rolled out toward the 3-point line, allowing him to grab it, square up and shoot. Senior guard Josh Brown defended the shot as well as he could, but it didn’t matter.
“There’s not a lot to talk about to them after the game,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “We had our opportunities, and if we fixate on the last half minute, then everything that could go wrong for us did...Brewton lofted it just with the right arc and dead in the hoop. Just a killer. Absolute killer.”
Temple played its worst game of the season, possibly several seasons, in a 60-39 loss to Central Florida on Jan. 7. Following the game, Alston said there was a players’ only meeting.
The Owls responded with a big-time win against Southern Methodist on Wednesday, snapping the Mustangs’ 33-game home win streak, ending Temple’s five-game losing streak and injecting life into what was turning into a disappointing season.
In Saturday’s game, the Owls had a chance to continue that momentum in an effort to turn around their season. Instead, they’ll play Tulsa at home on Wednesday having lost five of their last six games.
“We gotta learn how to put teams away,” Alston said