With its season on the brink, trailing American Athletic Conference bottom feeder Houston by five points at halftime at the Liacouras Center, the Temple men’s basketball team rallied for a critical 66-54 victory on Thursday night.
The Owls snapped a two-game losing skid, putting themselves back on firm ground – at least temporarily – in their bid to return to the NCAA Tournament and took another step towards earning the third seed in the American Athletic Conference Tournament.
Temple is 20-9 overall and 11-5 in the league, while the Cougars fell to 9-18, 1-14.
“No question it was very important, we need to win games,” said Temple coach Fran Dunphy. “We’re in the home stretch here.”
Will Cummings led the way with 14 points, seven assists, three steals and just one turnover. Quenton DeCosey contributed 16 points, nine rebounds and three assists.
“It was a very good game from Quenton DeCosey,” said Dunphy. “Hopefully that’s a sign of things to come.”
Jaylen Bond added 15 points, nine rebounds, two blocks and a steal. He finished a huge dunk in transition on a dish from Cummings after a steal where the point guard had to fight to maintain control near mid-court.
"It was a great play, brought a lot of energy to myself and the team,” sad Bond. “He’s a great point guard. He can find anybody in transition.”
Down 34-29 at the break, the Owls opened the second half with guard Josh Brown in place of forward Davontae Watson. The strategy worked as Brown quickly had a nice pass that led to a bucket and a jumper to bring Temple within a point.
“It definitely helped in the second half, Danrad Knowles was hurting us in the first half and with four guards we put a guard on him and shut him down in the second half,” said DeCosey. “They made a lot of their shots in the first half.”
Overall, the Owls shot 55 percent in the second half as Cummings fed Bond for a couple dunks that changed momentum and the improved effort on the defensive end paved the way for 13 fast-break points compared to zero for Houston.
Temple will be off for a week before traveling to East Carolina, then will close the regular season at home against Connecticut.
If it wins both, it can head to the conference tournament secure in its chances of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens in Connecticut.
Dunphy is three wins shy of 500 for his career.
Back on track: Temple tops Houston
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