La Salle’s Ayinde Hikim got a steal and knocked down a mid-range jumper. The Explorers were within two points of Temple, and Tom Gola Arena was at peak volume with a packed house.
But Temple responded with a 11-0 run midway through the first half and never trailed again en route to a 70-65 victory.
A combination of Temple’s tenacious defense and missed opportunities led to La Salle’s scoring droughts, and the Owls led, 36-22, at the break.
The Explorers (1-2) had one last run late in the second half after Sherif Kenney went on a three-point barrage and cut the lead to five points. The Owls (3-0) knocked down late free throws to secure the win.
Keys to the game
Temple’s defense wreaked havoc by forcing 12 steals and blocking six shots. The Owls finished with 21 points off 17 turnovers. Four Owls had two or more steals.
Temple’s Nate Pierre-Louis scored 21 points and added 12 rebounds and four assists. Quinton Rose finished with 18 points and a team-high three steals.
La Salle was led by junior guard David Beaty, who had 13 points, five rebounds and two steals before fouling out. Saul Phiri provided a spark off the bench and finished with 11 points, five assists, and four rebounds. Kenney’s late shooting gave him 13 points. The Explorers made 15 three-pointers.
“I’m proud that our guys fought to the end, but eventually I hope we get this program to the point where we’re not just settling for moral victories," La Salle coach Ashley Howard said.
“We had a couple mental lapses [in the final minutes] as a team. All of us gave up a couple threes when we should’ve just fanned out to the shooters,” Rose said.
“We want to make people uncomfortable,” Temple coach Aaron McKie said. “Our defense has been carrying us to this point. If you impact them and get under their skin enough [defensively], they’ll hand you the ball.”
La Salle’s offense can create good shots. The Explorers finished with 17 assists on 23 field goals and had several opportunities for more.
Pierre-Louis and Rose continue to shine on the offensive end, but a third consistent scorer is needed. Alani Moore II had been that guy through two games, but he was unable to score until the final minutes. He finished with eight points and sealed the game late, going six-of-six from the free throw line.
McKie said he grew up "a strong throw away” from La Salle’s gym and getting his first Big Five win was a cool feeling.