LOS ANGELES — Temple’s first trip to California in 14 years was a successful one. The Owls showcased their toughness, defeated previously unbeaten USC, 70-61, and potentially found a future star.
Freshman Josh Pierre-Louis has seen his playing time increase each game of the young season. Don’t expect it to wane anytime soon after he showed what he can do in his first game outside of Philadelphia. Pierre-Louis carried the Temple offense in the first half and his smothering defense helped spur a lengthy second-half run that turned the tide Friday night at Galen Center.
Pierre-Louis scored 13 of his 15 points off the bench in the first half, including a nifty up-and-under reverse move just before the buzzer to give the Owls (4-0) a 31-30 lead at the break. Older brother Nate Pierre-Louis had his four-game double-double streak snapped, but had seven points and 10 rebounds. Quinton Rose and De’Vondre Perry added 12 points each.
USC (5-1) opened the second half with an 8-0 run, taking its largest lead, but Temple answered in a big way, ratcheting up its defense to go on a 19-2 run that spanned nearly six minutes.
“We started to put the ball in the hole and we got a chance to get up the floor and pressure those guys and get them out of rhythm,” Temple coach Aaron McKie said. “I thought we got them out of sorts.”
Following the initial second-half spurt, the Owls were able to to contain USC’s three-forward attack of Onyeka Okongwu, Nick Rakocevic, and Isaiah Mobley. The trio, who all are at least 6-foot-9, entered averaging 44 points and 24.2 rebounds combined. Okongwu scored 17 points, but the Trojans struggled to find success down low in the second half. Temple gave up only six points in the paint in the final 16:44.
Rakocevic and Mobley combined for three second-half points. For the first time this season, none of the trio reached double-figure rebounds. The Owls won the battle on the boards, 42-38, despite being without their tallest player, 6-foot-11 Damion Moore, who did not make the trip because of a back injury, and having 6-foot-9 reserve Arashma Parks play just nine minutes before fouling out.
“We're tough, man. We're from Broad Street. That's just what we do,” McKie said. “We win ugly and that's the mindset our guys came in here with. That's the mindset we going to have throughout the year.”
“Coach just preached physicality and that’s what we did,” Rose said.
Rose, who began the game 0 for 6, had the answer every time USC tried to crawl back in the game down the stretch. The Trojans trimmed the lead to five points with just under four minutes remaining, but Rose hit a three-pointer from beyond NBA range and then banked in a midrange jumper with 81 seconds to go when USC cut the lead to six.