NEW YORK - What looked like a holiday blowout turned into a true character test for the Temple men's basketball team.
Trailing by 18 points with less than 13 minutes, 30 seconds remaining, the Owls defeated No. 25 Florida State in an 89-86 Thanksgiving stunner during the NIT Season Tip Off at the Barclays Center.
Temple (3-2) will face West Virginia in the championship game at 3 p.m. Friday.
"We were down 18 because of how good they were, but we found a way to win the game some way," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said.
Owls guard Quinton Rose has yet to start a college game, but his impact has been enormous. The 6-foot-8 freshman, who scored a season-high 14 points in an 88-67 win over Manhattan on Sunday, far exceeded that output against a high-flying and deep Florida State team.
Rose had 26 points off bench, continually taking on the bigger defenders and drawing fouls. He hit 12 of 15 from the free-throw line. He scored 17 of his points in the second half.
"In the first half I was trying to take everything to the basket," Rose said. "In the second half, I was using my mid-range and pull-up [jumper] and floater and I was also dishing to Obi."
That would be 6-9 junior Obi Enechionyia, who played all 40 minutes and had 16 points, eight rebounds, and a career-high six blocked shots.
Florida State was paying extra defensive attention to Enechionyia, making it tough for him to come off screens and shoot the three. He was 2 of 3 from beyond the arc.
"I thought we played good defense on him but because we did a very good job, he was extremely patient and I thought he played very mature," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said.
Of course, with all the defensive attention on Enechionyia, who attempted just 13 shots, others were left open.
"The other guys stepped up and made shots for them," Hamilton said.
Besides Rose, two of the "other" guys were sophomore guard Shizz Alston, who had a career-high 22 points, and freshman point guard Alani Moore, who tied a season high with eight points, including two second-half threes.
Temple took its first second-half lead on Moore's three-pointer with seven minutes left that gave the Owls a 73-72 advantage. The game went back and forth from there.
Alston made 4 of his 6 second-half three-pointers after missing his only two of the first half. For somebody who entered the game 2 for 18 from beyond the arc, it was a major breakthrough.
"Everybody knows it's been a tough start for me [shooting], so when I saw those threes go in, I just wanted to cry," said Alston, who drew laugher with that comment. "I haven't made that many threes in a while and it felt normal."
With Temple leading, 87-86, Daniel Dingle shot an air ball with 19 seconds left. FSU got the rebound and Alston forced a tie-up with the Seminoles, retaining possession with 4.6 second left.
Jonathan Isaac, the Seminoles' ultra-talented 6-foot-10 freshman, then missed inside off the inbounds pass.
"Jonathan had a great look at the end, but the ball kind of slipped out of his hands," Hamilton said.
Rose got the rebound and was fouled with 1.5 seconds left and made both free throws. A three-quarter-court desperation shot by Xavier Rathan-Mayes appeared on target, bouncing off the rim as time expired.
FSU, which had a huge size advantage, was led by 6-7 sophomore Dwayne Bacon, who had 22 points, and Isaac, the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference rookie of the week, who added 19 points, seven rebounds, and three assists.
While most in the sparse crowd thought Temple was buried when down 18, the players had other ideas.
"We looked at each other and said it was time to pick it up, we're on the big state and we're not going down like this," Alston said. "We said we were going to fight back and win this game."