ORLANDO - For the second straight season, Temple's basketball team must wait an agonizing 24 hours, its fate determined by a committee huddled in a New York hotel room, determining the at-large teams for the NCAA tournament.

Playing a Connecticut team that defied the expectation that it would be competing on tired legs, Temple allowed an early eight-point lead to vanish quickly and never recovered during a 77-62 loss in an American Athletic Conference tournament semifinal Saturday at the Amway Center.

Now Temple (21-11), which certainly has an argument for NCAA inclusion, has to sweat it out again.

Last year the Owls lost to eventual conference champion SMU, 69-56, in the semifinals and then were the first team out on Selection Sunday, the 69th choice in a 68-team field.

UConn (23-10) likely clinched its own NCAA berth and will meet Memphis, which defeated Tulane, in the AAC championship game Sunday. Temple fans will be rooting for UConn, since the only way Memphis can earn a bid is to win the championship. And Temple doesn't need another potential bid taken by a previously unexpected team.

"It's a killer number of hours that we're going to have to wait," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said.

The tired-legs theory regarding UConn never became a reality. Less than 24 hours after surviving a four-overtime thriller against Cincinnati, the Huskies displayed boundless energy, in addition to a pretty good shooting eye.

Daniel Hamilton, the 6-foot-7 sophomore who played 55 minutes against Cincinnati, looked as if he could have gone an hour and a half. Hamilton had 19 points and 11 rebounds in 34 highly efficient minutes. Teammate Shonn Miller also had 19 points.

Owls forward Jaylen Bond, who has been playing some of the best basketball of his two-year career at Temple, had 17 points and 10 rebounds for an Owls team that won two close regular-season meetings with UConn.

"It's hard to beat a team three times," Bond said.

Especially when the marksmanship is off.

Temple's main offensive threats, Quenton DeCosey and Obi Enechionyia, both picked an inopportune time to go cold. They combined for 6-of-30 shooting.

For the game, Temple shot 23 of 64 from the field and 4 of 20 from beyond the arc, while UConn was 29 of 56 and 7 of 14. Temple also made just 12 of 22 free throws, while UConn hit 12 of 15.

The Huskies led by as many as 16 points in the first half and had a 39-28 advantage at intermission.

Temple was fortunate to be down by 11.

The Owls needed to shoot well from the perimeter because 7-foot junior Amida Brimah came off the bench to alter both shots and the game.

In the first half Brimah hit all three field goal attempts, all near the rim, and added six rebounds and three blocks.

Temple cut its deficit to six points, 55-49, on a Devin Coleman driving layup with 9 minutes, 44 seconds left. The Owls, however, couldn't get any closer.

A symbol of Temple's struggles came when DeCosey hit a layup and was fouled to get the Owls within seven, 62-55, with 4:20 left. DeCosey missed the foul shot and UConn put things away with a 6-0 run.

After beating Cincinnati in Friday's marathon, UConn coach Kevin Ollie vowed the Huskies wouldn't use fatigue as an excuse against Temple.

He proved prophetic.

"They came out and played with resiliency," he said about his team. "They were tough and played with heart, and it was pretty much a great game from our standpoint."

And the opposite from Temple's.

So now the question is: Is winning the regular-season AAC title and going 1-0 against SMU, 2-0 against Cincinnati, and 2-1 against UConn enough for Temple?

When asked if he thinks the Owls are a tournament team, point guard Josh Brown gave his best guess.

"We hope so, but it is not in our hands," said Brown, who had 10 points, four assists, and three turnovers. "We just pray tomorrow on Selection Sunday that we hear our names called."

mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard