Backed by a dynamic second half performance by senior guard Dalton Pepper, Temple men’s basketball fell seconds shy of taking down number 15/16 Cincinnati, 80-76.
Instead, however, the Owls dropped their 8th straight game keeping them winless both in the American Athletic Conference and 2014.
Pepper scored a career high 33 points, including 27 in the second half alone. The senior notched a high 8 treys to tie a Liacouras Center high, including one that tied the game at 76 with just 36 seconds left.
“The second half he [Pepper] was just tremendous” said Dunphy. “…the super star of the second half; propelled us to the back end of the game.”
Pepper’s effort from behind the arc powered his team through a 19 point deficit mid way through the second half and brought a seemingly lost cause game down to the final seconds.
Down 2 points with 7.2 seconds remaining, the Owls were given one more shot clinch a game winner. Pepper dished the inbound off to junior guard Will Cummings, who gave the feed to freshman guard Josh Brown inside the paint. His jumper was blocked by Bearcat’s Jermaine Sanders.
The final play, however, did not pan out according to head coach Fran Dunphy’s original intention.
“I didn’t want to get Pep [Pepper] out into the floor cause they would deny him right away…if Pep was right on his [Cummings] heels, he could have flipped it back to Pep. We were hoping at some point Pep would end up with the ball,” said Dunphy.
The senior guard, however, had a different take on how he wished the last play would have panned out.
“I just wanted it to go, in, whoever shot it,” he said.
Cummings committed the foul after the blocked shot sending the Bearcats to the charity stripe for a final time where they iced the game with a pair of FTs putting them up 4 and giving the Owls only half a second for their final possession.
“We were right there at the last play; it was tied up…they gave us a shot to win it…maybe like 2, 3 stops would put us over the edge,” said Pepper.
The hot handed senior shot just under 50% from the floor, including 8-14 from beyond the arc, versus 38.2% from the rest of the team.
The 76 point effort by the Owls snapped a 27 game streak for the Bearcats of holding opponents to under 70 points.
For Dunphy, however, the stat pales in comparison to considering the entire’s team shooting performance.
“There’s a bit of fool’s gold in there cause Pepper was going crazy” said Dunphy.
He continued to say “We probably should have looked for him just a couple more times.”
The senior transferred from West Virginia in the 2011-2012 season, where he sat out per NCAA rules. Last season, he came off the bench for 29 of the 34 games, averaging only 2.9 ppg. This season, however, Pepper has started in all 18 games, and leads the team in scoring with 17.0 ppg, ranking 4th in the American.