Well, there will be no Cinderella story after all.
The East Carolina Pirates led early and often as they took down the Temple Owls in the opening round of the Frontier Communications American Athletic Conference tournament by a score of 80 to 69.
ECU knocked down a couple of three pointers in the opening minutes of Thursday afternoon’s game to take a 6-0 lead, and that lead would never be erased.
The Owls shot 31.3% from the floor in the first half and never led in the game, and that percentage would have looked a lot uglier if it was not for an excellent performance by junior Obi Enechionyia. Enechionyia carried to load in the first half with 12 points on 5 of 8 shooting, but his teammates could not hit water if they fell out of a boat.
Senior Dan Dingle, freshman Quinton Rose and sophomore Shizz Alston Jr. shot a combined 4 for 19 in the first half and the Owls could not take advantage of the 11 offensive rebounds that they grabbed.
ECU’s Kentrell Barkley guided the Pirates with 14 first half points as they took a 36-29 led into halftime.
Temple showed some fight to start the second half, knocking down 4 of their first 5 shots, to cut the deficit to 3 at 42-39 but they simply could not get themselves over the hump and take a lead of their own.
With the score at 53-52 at the 10:53 mark, East Carolina grabbed all momentum and never looked back. Freshman Elijah Hughes converted couple of ferocious takes to the hoop and Caleb White swished a three ball to take a seven point lead at 61-54.
The entire afternoon belonged to sophomore Kentrell Barkley, who dominated with 26 points and 16 rebounds on 9 of 17 shooting. Barkley tormented the Owls earlier in the season with 19 points in their win at home, and poured salt on the wound in today’s game as he dominated the boards on both sides of the floor.
For the Owls, Obi Enechionyia continued his steady stroke in the second half and he had 20 points on the day. This was the first time Obi had 20+ points since their Big 5 matchup against St. Joe’s back in November.
Senior Dan Dingle’s day ended early as he fouled out with 4:13 remaining. The captain from the Bronx had a night to forget and finished with a line of 10 points and 3 rebounds on 3 for 10 shooting in 32 minutes of play.
The East Carolina Pirates will move on to face the top-seeded SMU Mustangs on Friday at noon.
The one bright spot of Thursday’s defeat and the entire 2016-2017 season is the exposure that so many young Owls gained. The three freshmen, Quinton Rose and Alani and Damion Moore, played key minutes for Temple from the second the started balling on Broad Street. Sophomores Shizz Alston and Ernest Aflakpui played little roles in their freshmen, and then played huge roles on this year’s squad. With all the tough defeats and inconsistent play that came with the Owls’ season, a glimmer of hope and potential remains for the Temple Owls.