Shizz Alston carried Temple’s basketball team again on Wednesday night -- this time in spectacular fashion.
Alston scored 13 straight points for the Owls late in the second half of an 82-74 win over Southern Methodist in a key American Athletic Conference game at the Liacouras Center.
Considered on the NCAA bubble, Temple can ill afford to lose a home game to a team that is below the Owls in the standings.
With six games remaining in the regular season, Temple (18-7, 8-4 AAC) has surpassed its win total from a year ago when the Owls finished 17-16. Temple also moved into sole possession of fourth place in the AAC, where the top four teams will receive byes in the conference tournament.
SMU (12-12, 4-8) has lost five in a row, by a total of 22 points. The Mustangs were led by lightning-quick senior guard Jahmal McMurray, who scored 14 of his 22 points in the second half.
“Like I told my team every game is a championship game, we are trying to make the tournament,” said Alston, who scored 28 points, three shy of his career high. “This is my last chance to make the tournament, I have to give it everything I’ve got every game.”
Alston ended his 13-point spree with a three-pointer that increased the Owls’ lead to 71-67 with 2 minutes, 24 seconds left. After a missed SMU three-pointer, Temple got a three-pointer from Nate Pierre-Louis, on an assist from Alston. On the next possession, two free throws by Alston boosted the lead to 76-67 with just 1:16 left.
Alston rebounded from a rough first half when he shot 3-for-10 (1-of-6 from three-point range) in scoring nine points. In the second half, the 6-foot-4 senior shot 7-for-9 and hit both of his three-point attempts.
In addition, he hit all five of his free throws while also totaling five assists with no turnovers.
“He’s a great player, a great talent, and I really like him a lot,” SMU coach Tim Jankovich said of Alston.
When Alston went on his run, his teammates knew where they wanted the ball to go against the SMU zone defense.
"I know when Shizz hits one or two in a row it is over,” said Pierre-Louis, a sophomore guard who had 16 points and nine rebounds. “I was looking for him if he was open.”
For the game Temple also received 15 points from Quinton Rose; six points, nine rebounds and a career-high seven assists from J.P. Moorman; six points and 10 rebounds from Ernest Aflakpui, and eight points off the bench from 6-10 sophomore Justyn Hamilton.
The Owls now prepare for Saturday’s game at South Florida, a team that along with Memphis sits one game behind the Owls in the tight AAC standings.