Quinton Rose (above) and Temple knocked off No. 16 Wichita State on Thursday night. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Zach Drapkin (@ZachDrapkin)
As the ball trickled into Wichita State’s backcourt and the buzzer sounded, the Temple faithful stormed the Liacouras Center court, letting out cries of joy, fist pumps, and high fives, the reactions you would expect from a big win.
The players were equally elated, darting around the court and embracing one another in the ecstasy and relief of an upset victory.
Temple had just knocked off -- shocked, if you will -- 16th-ranked Wichita State, 81-79, in overtime.
And what a moment it was for the Owls.
There were numerous times where it looked like the game would slip away from Temple, which trailed by 12 late in the first half and by 10 with under 15 minutes to go, but the Owls lived up to their motto -- Greatness Doesn’t Quit -- and pulled through for a late win in OT.
With 12.6 seconds left in regulation, Wichita State led by two, 74-72, and it was Temple ball on the inbounds. Shizz Alston Jr., who had started the game 1-for-13 from the field, was due for a big play, and he made it happen.
Alston grabbed a handoff from Josh Brown and charged to the hole, rising up and sinking an acrobatic up-and-under finish to tie the game. The Shockers missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.
“Coach [Aaron] McKie, he told me how they were about to guard me so he said come off, take one back dribble, and go hard to the basket, and it worked,” Alston said. “I knew that they would switch and I knew that they would have a big on me, so as soon as I came off, I took one back dribble and went hard right to the basket.”
“We had talked to Shizz a little bit earlier, if he gets a chance to drive it hard that he should do that, and he made a great play,” Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said. “He didn’t shoot it well, obviously...but you trust in him, because he’s been around a little bit, he’s a good guy, and nobody wants to win and make plays more than him. We just stayed with the trust factor in him and I think he rewarded us with some really good plays.”
Temple needed more big plays after the Shockers took a five-point lead with 2:19 remaining in the extra period, and they came through in the clutch once again.
Quinton Rose knocked down a triple from the right wing to cut the deficit to two just six seconds after Shaquille Morris’s dunk made it 79-74, and by the 1:44 mark, the Owls had already tied it thanks to a pair of Alston free throws.
With 41.9 seconds and the ball coming out of a timeout, Temple set up another shot for Alston, who missed, but freshman Nate Pierre-Louis made a great hustle play to grab the offensive board and kick it back out to Rose in the corner.
There were still 24 seconds on the clock when Rose unleashed his shot and had it rim out, but this time, senior Obi Enechionyia muscled the ball away from Wichita State’s rebounders and drew a foul, sending him to the line for two shots.
Enechionyia sunk both, and the Shockers’ miss on the last play sprung off the rim and into the backcourt, sealing Temple’s improbable win.
Shizz Alston Jr. (above) was just 5-of-22 but made the game-tying layup at the end of regulation. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
“It looked like it was about ready to get away from us in that second half but we found ways to get to the rim,” Dunphy said. “It was very important for us to keep hanging in there, and we did.”
Alston finished with 12 points on 5-for-22 shooting, while Rose led the team with 19 points and Brown piled on 15 points, five rebounds, and three steals. Enechionyia and Pierre-Louis each added 11 to give the Owls five players in double figures for the first time since the Clemson game.
For Wichita State, Morris had a game-high 24 points and nine rebounds and Markis McDuffie dropped 20 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. Guard Landry Shamet recorded 12 points and seven assists but turned the ball over six times, a deciding area of the game.
After giving the ball away eight times in the first half, Temple committed just two turnovers for the rest of the game, while the Shockers finished the game with 16 giveaways. The Owls also held Wichita State to 31 combined points in the second half and OT after allowing 48 in the first half.
“We turned it [over] eight times in the first half. To turn it only twice in the last 25 minutes is pretty great,” Dunphy said.
Temple has now gone 11 straight seasons with a top-25 win, this being their first of the 2017-18 campaign, as wins over Auburn and Clemson occurred before either Tigers team was ranked.
“We’ve been fortunate over the years to have our share of them and I’m proud of our guys that they had a chance to do it tonight. Wichita State’s really good,” Dunphy said. “We’re thrilled to have it, these are long seasons and to get a win like this against a team that has that kind of cachet to it is really great.”
The victory is certainly crucial to Temple’s season. The Owls are now 4-6 in American Athletic Conference play and 12-10 overall. A loss might have been fatal to their season.
It’s been an up-and-down year for Temple, which started off by winning the Charleston Classic and hopped out to a 7-3 mark. Five straight losses marred the hot beginning, but a big win at SMU and now this upset of ranked Wichita State have restored hope for the Owls.
There are eight games remaining in the season, and with enough winnable matchups coming up on top of the quality wins Temple already has, the Owls have the chance to make a convincing case for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid, should they not win an automatic bid through the AAC tournament.
The conference slate has been a struggle, as evidenced by a 4-6 league mark. The Owls lost on a buzzer-beater in overtime to Memphis just a couple of weeks ago and have had 11 games decided by five points or less.
This win over a top foe and the momentum it spurs will help Temple toughen up going forward.
“It’s a hard league. There’s some really good teams, terrific coaching that goes on, and some outstanding talent, so you’ve got to try to hold your end of the bargain at home and we’ve let a couple of those slide and we need to really buckle down here,” Dunphy said. “We’re getting tougher and I hope we’re a gritty group. It’s to be determined as we go at the rest of this eight-game regular season and then into the conference tournament.”
“The Memphis game, guy hit a lucky three, we’ve had some other close games like that, so tonight we left two guys wide open at the end of our game and it just went our way,” Alston added. “A lot of these games haven’t gone our way and I feel like it’s finally time for games to start going our way.”