Damian Dunn’s step-back, buzzer-beating three-pointer gave Temple a 78-75 victory over East Carolina in American Athletic Conference play at the Liacouras Center.

The game-winner finished off a career-best 33-point effort by Dunn.

Owls head coach Aaron McKie, who is still listed in COVID protocol, missed the game against the Pirates, leaving associate head coach Monté Ross to run the team for the second straight game. Temple was also without guard Tai Strickland (back) and forward Jake Forrester (non-COVID illness) for the third straight game.

The Owls (9-6, 2-2 AAC), coming off a 66-62 win against conference foe Central Florida on Jan. 5, struggled to find their offense in the first half and were fortunate to be down by just six, 40-34, at the half. The Pirates (10-4, 1-1) were up 10 with 2 minutes, 22 seconds left before the break.

The Owls got back in the game by shooting 57.7% in the second half.

Temple will take on Tulsa (6-7, 0-2) in Oklahoma on Jan. 12, tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

Early inefficient shooting

Despite opening the game on a 7-0 run, the Owls finished the first half shooting 41.9% from the field and trailing, 40-34.

East Carolina’s offense, which was fourth in the conference in scoring (73.8 points a game), went on an 8-0 run after Pirates guard Tristen Newton made a mid-range jumper with under 13 minutes left in the half, to take a 13-8 lead.

Temple finished the half making just 2 of 13 shots from three-point territory and 13 of 31 from the field overall. The Owls’ offense had the right looks, but couldn’t finish them off at the rim.

In the second half, Temple shot a much-improved 57.7% from the field. Dunn led the way, scoring 19 of his 33 points after the break. Dunn was 6-for-6 from the field and 5-for-5 from the free-throw line in the second half.

An explosive Jourdain

Forward Nick Jourdain had an impressive performance against Pirates, scoring 16 points, grabbing five rebounds, and two steals.

“I tried to lock-in and play smarter on defense,” Jourdain said.

To open up the game, Jourdain turned a layup into a three-point play, after a personal foul was called against Pirates forward Vance Jackson.

With 31 seconds left in the first half, Jourdain stole the ball from ECU guard JJ Miles and passed off to Jeremiah Williams for a dunk. The play got the Owls to within 38-34.

Early in the second half, Jourdain made a three-pointer to cut East Carolina’s lead 43-37.

Despite fouling out of the game with 15.5 seconds left, Jourdain shot 6-for-8 from the field and made 1 of 3 shots from beyond the arc.