The Temple men’s basketball team’s seven-game winning streak is over and with it an opportunity to really stamp its ticket for the NCAA Tournament.
The Owls led by 10 in the second half against the No. 21 Mustangs before falling 67-58.
The loss probably eliminated any hope Temple had of winning the regular-season title in the American Athletic Conference. SMU is 22-5 overall and 13-2 in the American, while the Owls fell to 19-8, 10-4.
The Owls led 52-49 with 3:58 to play after an Obi Enechionyia dunk but Ryan Manuel came down and drilled a 3 to tie the game and a Carmen Cunningham jumper put SMU ahead for good.
Will Cummings led Temple with 14 points. The loss was the first this season with a healthy Cummings and Jesse Morgan in the lineup.
While the loss was tough, Sunday’s game at Tulsa loomed as the more important contest on this difficult two-game swing. The Mustangs were going to the dance regardless, while the Golden Hurricane is a bubble team.
If the Owls lose to Tulsa for a second time – they let a double-digit lead slip away at the Liacouras Center last month – it could put them behind the Golden Hurricane in the race for an NCAA at-large bid.
Temple is also trying to get up the No. 2 spot in the American standings as Tulsa is 18-7, 11-2. A loss would doom the Owls to at best the third seed in the American, a league which appears to have six good teams.
Finishing second in the American would bring a likely quarterfinal matchup with Tulane, East Carolina or Central Florida. The third seed carries a matchup with Connecticut – in Hartford - Cincinnati or Memphis.
After Tulsa, the Owls will have only three games left in the regular season – home contests against Houston and Connecticut and a road game at East Carolina.
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