MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Wichita State had just gone on an 11-0 run and led Temple by nine points with a little more than eight minutes remaining Friday’s American Athletic Conference tournament quarterfinal, and the Owls looked finished.
To its credit, Temple made a comeback in a back-and-forth game at the FedEx Forum, cutting the lead to 73-71 on two Quinton Rose free throws with 1 minute, 40 seconds left.
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The momentum was in Temple’s favor, but the Owls looked as if they expended too much energy in making a comeback. Wichita State scored on four of its final five possessions (making one turnover) while Temple went 0-for-4 and scored just scored three Nate Pierre-Louis free throws the rest of the way.
Wichita State, meanwhile, made both its field goal attempts and 3 of 4 free throws down the stretch.
Ball game over.
NCAA hopes over?
That is hard to say, leaving the Owls (23-9) agonizingly waiting for the Selection Sunday show, which begins at 6 p.m.
Temple first-team all-conference guard Shizz Alston, who displays a Ph.D. level of knowledge in bracketology, was at a loss for words at the podium after Friday’s loss.
He was asked his level of confidence in the Owls’ being invited to the Big Dance.
“At this point, I don’t know, man,” he said. “We’re just hoping for the best. I mean, like Coach [Fran Dunphy] said, I felt like we did enough to get in, but you never know in these situations, so we’re just sitting and watching and hoping.”
For Alston, who made so many big shots and carried the Owls in several games, the final 20 minutes was a cruel reminder of how humbling college basketball, or athletics in general, could be.
In the first half, he did indeed help carry the Owls, along with fellow senior Ernest Aflakpui. During the first half, he scored 18 points, but the second half he went 0-for-6 from the field, scored just two points, and was assessed a technical foul for arguing with the officials.
Aflakpui did his best to keep the Owls in the game, with 16 points and a career-high 19 rebounds.
Wichita State (19-13) played like a desperate team that needs to win the AAC. The Shockers got a career-high 34 points from second-team all-conference forward Markis McDuffie. The 6-foot-8 McDuffie hurt Temple inside and outside. He had 12 rebounds, including seven offensive, and had several put-backs. He also stepped out to make 4 of 9 threes.
“He is a good player and he happened to make a lot of tough shots, and we didn’t keep him off the glass,” Aflakpui said.
So now is the worst part, the wait. In 2015, the wait definitely wasn’t worth it. Temple was the first team out, the 69th in a 68-team field. The Owls ended up playing in the NIT that year.