If Temple earns a berth in the NCAA Tournament, the Owls’ two overtime American Athletic Conference wins over South Florida will likely have a big impact.
Both games showed the importance of free-throw shooting. USF shot a combined 23-for-48 (47.9 percent) in the two overtime losses. During Temple’s 82-80 overtime home win over USF on Jan. 12, the Bulls shot 10-for-25 from the foul line, only 40 percent.
Incidentally, USF shot just as well from three-point range in that game, 10-for-25.
Temple, meanwhile, was 23-for-28 from the foul line (82.1 percent), including 10-for-11 in the overtime.
In the Owls’ 70-69 win Saturday at USF, both teams had their difficult moments from the foul line. Temple’s Shizz Alston, who entered the game hitting 91.9 percent of his foul shots, missed 4 of 9. Entering the game, he had missed just 9 in 112 attempts.
“Usually in those situations, I am not too worried, but for some reason, I wasn’t myself at the foul line, but we made enough to win and that is what is important,” Alston said Monday by phone.
USF had a chance to win the game in the first overtime. Down by 70-69, David Collins went to the foul line for two free throws with 0.8 seconds left.
Collins had hit all six of his free throws to that point. He then missed both foul shots, and Temple escaped Tampa with a win.
For the game, the Bulls shot 13-for-23 from the line (56.5 percent), and Temple was 13-for-25 (52 percent).
Temple, which entered Monday with a NET ranking of 53, is considered on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, and Saturday’s game was like a mini-playoff.
“I went in with the mindset it was a must-win game,” Alston said.
The Owls were also able to win without senior center Ernest Aflakpui, who missed the game because of a leg injury. He is averaging 6.2 points and a team-high 7.1 rebounds, and is listed as day to day.
The Owls are 19-7 overall and 9-4 in the AAC. They are in fourth place, one game behind Central Florida. Temple is two games up on the teams tied for fifth, USF and Memphis.
The top four teams will earn first-round byes in the AAC Tournament, which will begin March 14 in Memphis.
Temple has five games left, three at home. The Owls will be off until Saturday, when they host Tulsa at noon.