Aron Minkoff (@AronMinkoff)
There was deja vu in Dallas as the SMU Mustangs used a spirited second-half comeback to defeat the Temple Owls on Thursday evening.
In what looked like a carbon copy of the two teams’ earlier meeting, the Owls saw their sizable halftime lead increase to double digits only for the Mustangs to overcome that in the final 10 minutes to come away with a decisive 67-58 victory.
When two teams met at the Liacouras Center on January 14, SMU came away with a 60-55 win. In that game, Temple led 33-26 at half and led by as many as 13 in the second half before SMU took control.
In this game, Temple saw their 33-25 halftime lead increase to as many as 10 before, you guessed it, SMU took control of the game and turned a 10 point deficit into an nine point victory.
Their defense obviously picked up and our offense slowed down,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy told the media in Dallas after the game. “We needed to move the ball better than we did. I thought we were a little shaky with the basketball a couple of times. They made couple of steals, two of them were on out of bounds plays, which can’t happen and we threw ball way one time and Nic Moore made a real good play. But it was going to come down late in the game and people making plays and I thought (Ryan) Manuel’s two threes were critical. They were crushers for us.”
With the game tied at 52 with slightly over three minutes remaining senior Jesse Morgan took what may have been the defining shot of the game. With several seconds remaining on the shot clock and Morgan having already picked up his dribble, the UMass transfer air-balled from way behind the 3-point line.
On the other side of the court, Mustangs’ senior Ryan Manuel hit two clutch threes from the deep corner to bookend SMU’s 10-0 run that all but put away the Owls.
“How do you explain him making I think one three all year and then making two that you really need,” Mustangs coach Larry Brown said.
The Owls were led by senior Will Cummings who contributed 14 points and seven assists. Junior Jaylen Bond chimed in eight points and 11 rebounds in the loss.
SMU was led by guard Nic Moore who recorded 18 points, and center Cannen Cunningham who chimed in 10 points of his own. None of the other Mustangs were in double digits but Manuel, Ben Moore, Sterling Brown and Markus Kennedy all scored eight.
For SMU, this was their 13th conference win, which eclipses their total last year of 12.
“The atmosphere was unbelievable. I was a little disappointed early that we didn’t have a lot of people,” Brown said. “I was wondering why people didn’t understand we were playing a team that hadn’t lost since they had those transfers together or were at full strength.”
A Temple win would have served as another resume-building win for the Owls, who are still in the hunt for a NCAA tournament berth. Their next chance will come at Tulsa at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday.