The “I Believe” chant, although a bit premature, resounded through the Liacouras Center with 30 seconds left in the game and 10 point Temple lead against Southern Methodist University Sunday night.
As the buzzer was about to sound, Larry Brown’s Mustangs had missed 5 free throws in a row on course for 7 straight and a slim 53.8% shooting from the stripe on the day. For Temple, it looked good.
SMU rallied to cut that deficit to just 5 in a span of ten seconds, silencing the Liacouras Center. Josh Brown, however, got to the stripe with 10 seconds left as the Mustangs ended a round of Temple keep-away with a foul.
He sank both and that was ice. He had attempted only one shot before the entire game. Temple won 71-64 for their second ever win in the American Athletic conference and their first win against a top 25 team this year.
“They’re 1 and 10; they just got blown out by Louisville. They looked like the team that’s supposed to win. They had amnesia,” said SMU head coach and former Sixers coach Larry Brown.
This Temple team had lost to SMU on the road just last week in a blow out game 75-52. According to Dalton Pepper, however, Coach Dunphy knew that is was Temple turn.
“I don’t know if coach is a psychic, but when we were in SMU, he said we are going to win this game at home,” said Pepper.
“I think Dalton tells stories out of school. I just thought at the time that some point we were going to be OK; lucky call at any stretch of it,” said Dunphy in response.
Looking at the stats, however, luck didn’t have much to do with, besides maybe when it came to SMU’s free throw shooting in the second half facing the Cherry Crusade. Four different Owls scored in double figures, three of whom were the usual high scoring combination of Will Cummings and Quenton DeCosey with 13 points a piece and Dalton Pepper with a game high 24.
Stepping into that fourth spot, however, was Mark Williams, who finished with 10 points and 7 rebounds, filling the void of Anthony Lee who was sidelined with a knee injury following Friday’s loss to Louisville. Also stepping up big to help Temple without Lee was Devontae Watson, who finished with 8 points and 8 rebounds in 25 minutes of play.
“It made me take more pride into it…not really filling in his role, but kind of playing it the best I could,” said Watson.
Thanks to the efforts of Watson and Williams, Temple was able to out-rebound SMU 38-25, once again, without Lee who leads the American with an average 9 rebounds per game. The tough road of opponents for Temple does not end here, however. The Owls will turn around to face another top 25 opponent in Connecticut on Thursday night.
“I am a big believer in our turn, and I think today was our turn to come together. More than anything else, just keep pounding in their heads that everything will be OK,” said Dunphy.
“We want to be prepared. This is where teams get better or fall down, anybody can be anybody,” said Pepper.
For now, Temple will just enjoy this win and celebrate the fact that they remain a perfect 9-0 on Hooter’s birthday.
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