After a disappointing road trip that included two close conference losses, Temple returned home to more of the same.
The Owls controlled much of the second half against South Florida on Sunday at the Liacouras Center, but fell apart in the final two minutes, suffering their third consecutive loss at the hands of the Bulls, 64-58.
Temple (14-15, 6-10 American Athletic Conference) was suffocated through the first 20 minutes by a USF defense that came into the game ranked 20th in the nation in scoring defense. The Owls made a more concerted effort to get to the basket in the second half and found an offensive rhythm.
Temple took its first lead with 11:47 left in the second half and switched in a 2-3 zone defensively to quell the Bulls’ offense. USF’s three-point shooting kept the game close until it took the lead back with just more than two minutes to play. The Bulls (13-16, 6-10 AAC) closed out the game on a 17-4 run, and held Temple scoreless for the last 2:13 as the Owls hit just one of their last 12 field goals.
Justin Brown led the way for USF with 13 points and nine rebounds. Nate Pierre-Louis finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Quinton Rose led Temple in scoring with 13 points.
Rose hit a three with 4:10 to play to give Temple a 57-53 lead. The Owls were unable to hit another field goal from that point on. Rose insisted Temple saw good looks late in the second half, but just couldn’t finish its chances. Pierre-Louis said the Owls played too passively. It translated into a turnover, five fouls, and eight consecutive missed field goals.
In one possession with just more than two minutes to play, USF grabbed four offensive rebounds after four misses and turned a marathon possession into a go-ahead bucket. Temple’s frustration was evident and the Bulls never trailed after that point.
“I would say it’s mental,” Rose said about Temple’s inability to score down the stretch again. “I feel like toward the end of the game, we got good looks. Monty [Scott] got a couple good looks. They just didn’t fall today.”
“We put ourselves in that situation where we need a key basket down the stretch,” head coach Aaron McKie said. “If we do the things we’re supposed to do earlier on in the game, maybe we’re able to get some separation and we don’t have to play in those types of games.”