Fight To The Finish

At the beginning of a men's basketball season where Temple sat at 1-3 after four games, finishing in the second half loomed as the biggest issue. But in three straight wins – including Wednesday's 77-69 victory over Big 5 rival St. Joseph's – the Owls have played well down the stretch to close out games and maybe show they are turning the season around.

At the beginning of a men's basketball season where Temple sat at 1-3 after four games, finishing in the second half loomed as the biggest issue.

But in three straight wins – including Wednesday's 77-69 victory over Big 5 rival St. Joseph's – the Owls have played well down the stretch to close out games and maybe show they are turning the season around.

Temple is 4-3 overall and 2-0 in the Big 5. St. Joe's fell to 4-3, 0-1.

"We did a real good job down the stretch today, no question about it, but we're still a work in progress," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy. "We have to understand what it's going to take, how good we need to be defensively, how well intentioned we need to be offensively. We took a few crazy shots down the stretch, but our defense was pretty good. I hope we're understanding.

"We got stops at one end and found a few things we could do on the other end, and made foul shots too, which is a part of it."

With the game tied at 65 after the last of St. Joe's Langston Galloway's six three-pointers, the Owls finished the final two-plus minutes on a 12-4 run. Galloway's three came with 4:27 to go, but he missed two more potential daggers as the Owls struggled to score as well.

Temple center Anthony Lee then scored on a layup off a slick pass from Will Cummings to put Temple ahead, 67-65, with 2:09 to play. Halil Kanacevic – who spent most of the second half on the bench with four fouls – missed a potential go-ahead three-pointer at the other end.

Quenton DeCosey hit a free throw and Lee added a layup before Ronald Roberts scored on a putback with 40 seconds left to make it a 70-67 game. But Lee hit a free throw with 28 seconds left, then grabbed his own rebound off a miss on the second shot – with none of his teammates on the line – and was fouled, dropping in two more shots to seal the game.

"I just followed my rebound," said Lee. "I was working last night in the gym and I just read it and I'm glad I timed it right. When I saw it hit off the rim and saw where it was going, I went and grabbed it."

Said St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli: "It was a young play that we shouldn't be making at this point in time."

The Owls managed the second half even though they started with five players with two fouls and two that weren't in foul trouble – Dalton Pepper and Will Cummings – came off with cramping down the stretch. Pepper, who tied Cummings for the team lead with 16 points, missed almost all of the last 10 minutes with the issue.

"Those two guys had some cramping going on, and it was crazy," said Dunphy. "We were throwing some guys in there and hoping. Josh Brown did a good job with his time there. Some of our younger guys are having to play and doing a good job."

Lee finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds, keeping pace with the strong Hawks, who out-rebounded the Owls 45-37. Cummings added seven assists and just two turnovers to his 16 points and Quenton DeCosey came off the bench – Dunphy said he sat the sophomore for a time management issue – to score 10 points.

"Just those first three (losses) we didn't close out in the end made us focus," said Cummings. "We won the first game (against Penn) and the younger guys thought we didn't have to prepare as much. Now you take a couple Ls and it makes you re-focus. Just because you get a 10-point lead in the second half. … It's a game of runs.

"We have a thing we talk about 40 minutes, that's the area we lacked. We don't get too high off the first half. You have to close out games. Teams are really good and they know how to make adjustments."

Galloway scored a game-high 24 and Roberts added 13 for the Hawks.

It wasn't necessarily a pretty affair, but it was competitive. Until Temple's last run, neither team led by more than five points the entire game in front of a lively crowd of 8,039.

"On the bus ride over here, I thought about. .. .It really was an Atlantic 10 game for us," said Martelli of the league the teams shared until the Owls departed for the American this year.

"Whatever league Temple's in, they're in. This game could be played Feb. 4, but it's always fiercely contested, and this is an honor to play Dunph's team any time of the year, anywhere because he's class personified."

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