A lackluster slate of Temple home games came to a fitting end on Wednesday at the Liacouras Center in a 61-51 loss to Tulsa.
The Owls (14-16, 6-11 American Athletic Conference) looked outmatched from start to finish in a battle with the AAC’s leader and were unable to generate any consistent form of offense. Tulsa (21-9, 13-4 AAC) held Temple scoreless for nearly 10 minutes, from the final two minutes of the first half into the second. The Owls missed four consecutive free throws in that span.
Unfinished opportunities at the rim haunted Temple all night. The Owls finished shooting 17-of-57 from the field and 6-of-26 on three-pointers. The Golden Hurricane never ran away with it, struggling to hit shots, as Temple’s defense limited its options. But a stagnant Temple offense was never able to put a run together to get back into the game.
Quinton Rose, who was 4-of-14 from the field, was the only Owl in double figures with a team-high 15 points. Rose, the AAC’s all-time leading scorer at 1,841 career points, received a standing ovation as he checked out of his last Temple home game. With one regular-season game left against conference-contender Cincinnati, the Owls can finish anywhere from the eighth to the 11th seed in the AAC tournament.
Rose and starting guards Alani Moore and Nate Pierre-Louis started a combined 1-of-10 from the field, setting the stage for a poor-shooting affair. Moore finished with three points in 33 minutes, and Pierre-Louis was held to four points, though he grabbed 12 rebounds. Without its top scoring threats making a difference, Temple couldn’t keep up.
Junior center Jake Forrester found himself in foul trouble early, limiting Temple’s options in the rotation. With a smaller group on the floor, Tulsa took the ball to the hoop and scored 28 of its points in the paint. Tulsa’s bench was a major factor, outscoring Temple’s, 30-15.
“It’s very emotional,” Rose said about playing his final home game for Temple. “It doesn’t really hit you until you get subbed out at the end and when the final buzzer sounds. So, I’ve got a lot of emotion right now.”
“You want to be playing your best basketball, which we are not at this particular point, but you can build momentum,” head coach Aaron McKie said about Temple’s motivation to close the season. “But the better teams, typically when conference play starts, reveal themselves.”
Temple’s three most-recent games were lost in crunch time, as the Owls failed to hit a field goal with less than four minutes to play in each of the three losses. Against Tulsa, it was a 9:24 scoreless stretch smack in the middle of the game that made the difference.
Temple doesn’t have a go-to scorer to make something happen when the rest of the offense struggles, and it has cost the Owls all season. And, as this stretch continues, the Owls are playing their worst basketball heading into the conference tournament.