Jarron Cumberland pumped his fist, yelled toward a frustrated Liacouras Center crowd, and relished what felt like a game-winning play.
After hitting two free throws to give Cincinnati a five-point lead over Temple, he stayed close to guard Quinton Rose in the backcourt, so close that Rose fumbled the inbounds pass and knocked it out of bounds. Cumberland celebrated with his teammates, then knocked down two more free throws to close out the Bearcats’ 89-82 win over the Owls on Wednesday night.
Cumberland was quiet in the first half of what felt like a heavyweight fight between Temple and Cincinnati. The senior guard was locked down by Temple’s best defender, Nate Pierre-Louis, as well as Rose. But with the game on the line, Cumberland came alive on both ends of the court and finished with a team-high 22 points. Fourteen came in the final two minutes.
Temple has built an identity this season as a team that can defend ferociously but cannot hit shots consistently. Against the Bearcats, the Owls shot the lights out but gave up a season-high 89 points.
Three-pointers fell at a season-best percentage, as Alani Moore did the damage in the first half, and Rose got into the action in the second. The Owls were efficient with midrange jumperstoo, hitting shots they usually struggle with. But in the final two minutes, they were outclassed in the paint and couldn’t keep up with the Bearcats’ efficient attack.
Rose scored a game-high 26 points, while Pierre-Louis followed with a career-best 22.
Keys to the Game
While Cumberland came alive in the closing minutes, Rose couldn’t keep up. He shot 8-of-13 from the field and 4-of-5 from three, an area in which he usually struggles, to finish with a season high. But in the final three minutes, Rose turned the ball over twice and missed two crucial jumpers, including what would have been a game-tying three with 1:35 left after a Cumberland layup. A game that Temple led with less than three minutes to play swung in those moments.
The Owls played a physical game and found themselves on the wrong end of some close calls, particularly in the second half. Center Justyn Hamilton fouled out with 7:43 to play, and center Jake Forrester finished with three personal fouls. Pierre-Louis said that quick whistles changed the physical style Temple normally plays on defense.
Cincinnati center Chris Vogt racked up 16 points in the first half. In the second half, Temple played him more physically qround the basket and held him to just two points. But Cincinnati coach John Brannen said the attention Temple paid to Vogt opened up the floor for the Bearcats’ guards, particularly Cumberland.
“Jarron pretty much took over at the end of the game, which is what players of the year do,” Brannen said. “We weren’t taking the ball out of his hands. We wanted him to have the ball as much as possible.”
“Three plays in the guts of the game really cost us and gave those guys separation,” Temple head coach Aaron McKie said. “We turned the ball over, Jarron Cumberland gets a layup, and then the other Cumberland (cousin Jaevin, 15 points) hits a three. Those plays really were the difference in the game.”
When Moore is confident, Temple’s offense flows. Moore hit four of his first five three-point attempts in the first half. Temple’s most reliable three-point shooter, Dre Perry, was out with a foot injury and is day-to-day, wearing a boot. This is the version of Moore the Owls saw early in the season, and they’ll need more of him without Perry.
Temple shot a season-best 9-of-14 from three-point range and had its second-best shooting day from the field at 53.4%. That performance is something to build on. But McKie said that if he was told his team would score 82 on Cincinnati, he would have assumed it was a win. This was an uncharacteristically poor defensive game for Temple, particularly in the closing minutes.