HARTFORD, Conn. -- The reason Temple was eliminated in the semifinal of the American Athletic Conference tournament and also why it was the third loss to SMU this season was simple – the Owls couldn't deal with the Mustangs inside game.
In Saturday's 69-56 loss at the XL Center, SMU outrebounded the Owls 45-32, but that was only part of the problem from a Temple perspective. The big men made it difficult for Temple to penetrate to the basket and that meant Temple had to rely on outside shooting.
Since the Owls shot just 17 of 58 (29.3 percent) and 4 of 24 from three-point range (16.7 percent), it played into SMU's hands.
"They pack the lane and make it tough to finish on top of them," Temple point guard Will Cummings, who shot 2 for 10. "When shots don't all against them it is going to be a long night."
In all three wins, SMU 6-9 junior Markus Kennedy was a big factor and in two of them, he was the difference. During a comeback 60-55 victory at Temple, Kennedy scored 21 points and hit 9 of 11 from the field. In Saturday's semifinal, he scored a game-high 17 points.
Yet it was the other big men that also hurt Temple. Yanick Moreira, a 6-11 senior, had 11 points on 5 of 6 shooting while 6-10 senior Cannen Cunningham added 11 points on 5 of 8 shooting.
Most of the field goals by Moreira and Cunningham were near the basket.
It also didn't help Temple that Jaylen Bond was limited to 11 minutes due to foul trouble,
"When Bond got in foul trouble, that obviously helped our inside game a lot and I think when you play good offense against Temple, it affects them offensively because they can't get out and run," SMU coach Larry Brown said.
Temple rarely got in transition. The Owls also did a good job defending AAC Player of the Year Nic Moore. The SMU point guard was held to seven points and shot 3 for 14.
However, Temple didn't have enough to combat SMU's size, either this game or the previous two.