It seems as though adding senior UMass transfer Jesse Morgan to the starting lineup has been a plus for the Owls over the last few games.
Filling the starting role of sophomore Mark Williams at SF, Morgan has put up 16 points per game and had a season high against Kansas with 17 in the win. The senior was at it again on New Year’s eve Wednesday against AAC foe UConn on the road.
After the Huskies entered the scoring column first on a layup by freshman SF Daniel Hamilton, Morgan nailed a triple following a Quenton DeCosey free throw. On a collective effort from Morgan and fellow transfers Jaylen Bond plus Devin Coleman, the Owls stormed to a 21-13 lead with 7:39 to go in the first half.
Kentan Facey, a sophomore from Kingston, Jamaica, added four points on a 8-0 Husky run to answer Temple tying the score at 21.
Temple ended the half on a Daniel Dingle layup to cushion their advantage by four but both offenses were an eye sore to watch. The Huskies shot 38 percent from the field while Temple connected on an unreal 28 percent and made 33 percent of their shots from deep.
The intriguing matchup of Will Cummings and Ryan Boatright saw Cummings outscore the leading man for the Huskies in the first half.
Speaking of Boatright, a minute into the second half, the senior came up limping after a Terrence Samuel made jumper as UConn looked for their next go-to scoring option. That aspect of the game turned out to be instrumental.
You would think the Huskies would turn to sophomore center Amida Brimah or Daniel Hamilton but Brimah got the calling card as he followed up with a dunk to tie the game at 25 following the injury. Both teams failed to create substantial separation in the second half as the Owls’ biggest advantage came with 7:48 to go up six.
Morgan, after his shooting spectacle against Delaware State in the second half of his previous game, put up eight in under a four minute span. Struggling PG Will Cummings connected on a jumper to retain the six point advantage before UConn called a timeout with 3:21 to go.
A dunk and free throw by Brimah cut the lead to three but Morgan nailed a triple with 1:50 remaining and the Owls looked to have the game in tow.
That wouldn’t be the case, however, with Temple falling apart with a minute to go.
Cummings put Hamilton at the line with the freshman coolly hitting both free throws as the lead was reduced to just two. On the following possession, Dingle gets the ball on the outside from Cummings but hits the back of the rim on the shot behind the arc.
Dingle goes for the loose ball but Samuel grabs the rebound and throws it to the leaking Rodney Purvis who jams it home to tie it up. Owls reluctant to call the timeout go to Dingle once again who drives baseline but fails to put the ball in the hole for the win.
We’re headed to overtime.
This was the first overtime for both teams on the season and UConn embraced the momentum in the final five minutes.
Temple won the tip but their first possession saw the ball fly out of bounds on a Brimah block with a second to go on the shot clock. The lone freshman on the Owls’ roster came up big with only a few options in the playbook to go with.
On a curl off a screen, the Owls’ ran Morgan on the outside with Obi Enechionyia setting a pick. Enechionyia broke to the basket as two Husky defenders tried to corral Morgan. Inbounder Will Cummings found the freshman who flushed it home giving the Owls the lead.
Hamilton answered with a jumper but the two teams exchanged turnovers giving the Owls possesion with the game tied. DeCosey took the ball to the hole and was subsequently fouled. The junior drained both of his attempts at the charity stripe.
Purvis was hacked on the following possession but failed to take advantage missing both of his attempts.
Both teams followed the status quo throughout the first two halts unable to get the orange leather through the metallic cylinder. UConn couldn’t hit jumpers and Temple whiffed on all facets of the offensive department. Their layups weren’t falling and tough contested jumpers started to become the focal point.
With an ineptitude to garner any sort of separation, UConn operated with the final possession following a Will Cummings fadeaway jumper.
The defending champs clearly weren’t looking to send the game into another overtime. Running high ball screens on the perimeter, Purvis gave it up to Hamilton who pump faked and drew the foul on Quenton DeCosey as he landed with two seconds to go.
The pressure on the freshman soon became overwhelming.
A 55 percent free throw shooter on the season, the freshman back rimmed the first two attempts before shooting a violation on the third missing the rim completely.
Temple would have Will Cummings hit the final two free throws after getting fouled and out-battled the Huskies 57-53 to capture their first American Athletic Conference victory of the season.
The injury to Boatright was an obvious crutch on the Huskies’ attempt to generate consistent offense and the senior was sorely missed by the team as evident by their ineptitude in overtime.
Temple surpasses their win total (9) from the 2013-2014 debacle and have another signature win on their resume to add on for their March Madness ballot. Morgan led the Owls with 17 points and Cummings dished out seven assists to both lead the team.
Temple (10-4, 1-0) hosts UCF Sunday at the Liacouras Center.