THE MOMENT the driving layup by Temple's Will Cummings that would have forced overtime went up, Isaiah Miles said he knew what was going to happen.
"He's a great freaky athlete," is how Miles described his Saint Joseph's teammate, fellow forward DeAndre Bembry. "I saw him cutting across [the lane] and you could tell he had it.
"He just took off."
Bembry, a 6-6 sophomore, figures to win his share of games for the Hawks with his offense. But last night at Hagan Arena, in a game in which he shot 3-for-15, he saved one at the other end by blocking the ball hard off the backboard. Temple's Quenton DeCosey, who already had scored a game-high 22 points, came up with the rebound. But his short followup leaner from the left baseline never really had a chance. So the Hawks, who led by 11 with 5 1/2 minutes to go, held on for the 58-56 win, their third in a row over the Owls at Hagan.
"It'll definitely be a boost for our morale," said Miles, who scored a career-high 20 on 7-for-14 shooting to go with nine rebounds and four assists. "It's a great emotional win. We have to carry it over [to Saturday] against a good Villanova team [at the Pavilion]."
The Hawks (4-3) are trying to find their way without their three best players from last season's team that won the Atlantic 10 championship and nearly beat eventual national champion Connecticut in their first game in the NCAA Tournament. It wasn't supposed to be easy.
They never trailed in the final 38 minutes. Still, they didn't get a field goal in the closing 8:44. And they were guilty of a couple of late turnovers that gave the Owls (4-3) an opening. But somehow, the Hawks did just enough.
"It just means we won tonight and we'll practice tomorrow," said coach Phil Martelli. "I just think winning beats the alternative. Not that I'll sleep any better tonight. There's a lot of things we have to correct. We have to live with the corrections.
"We're not skipping out of here saying, 'Wow, we're a finished product.' "
Last season, Miles wasn't asked to do a whole lot, because he wasn't needed. Now it has to be way different.
"He could kind of float," Martelli explained. "This'll look funny in print, but he didn't matter. Now there's nowhere [for him] to hide. We have to stay on him constantly about answering the bell."
His contributions in this one were necessary, given how the Owls were able to contain Bembry on a night when both teams uncharacteristically played a bunch of zone.
"I work with [assistant] coach [Dave] Duda on making my [shooting] form better every day, to get my confidence," said Miles, who made his only three (on four tries) right before the first-half buzzer to extend the lead to a dozen and also got seven of his points off five offensive boards. "But rebounding is definitely something I can give the team when it's not going in. There are other ways I can help, and I'm glad to do it."
He made the second of two free-throw attempts with 11.7 seconds to go to complete the scoring after DeCosey was called for an offensive foul while making a move to the basket at 15.1. Daniel Dingle earlier had a trey to tie go in-and-out, but Josh Brown's putback at 30.4 got Temple to within one, as close as it had been since 6-5.
It would've been some comeback. But the Owls couldn't quite pull it off.
"We weren't very good early on," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy, who will get La Salle at the Palestra on Saturday. "This was a Big 5 game, a Philly game. We talked about it a lot, how important it was. And one we needed to win."
The Owls will add two transfer guards, Jesse Morgan and Devin Coleman, after the game at Villanova on Dec. 14.
"That will be a new adventure for us," Dunphy said. "We'll have to figure it out, see how we play and manage the minutes."
DeCosey shot 7-for-11, 3-for-5 from the arc, in his 37. Everyone else went 13-for-38, 2-for-12. It's been a problem. Cummings needed 15 shots to get his 13. Nobody else had more than six. Jaylen Bond, who was coming off his best game, had mostly all zeros in 17 before fouling out.
The Hawks only turned it over nine times. Bembry was their other double-digit scorer, with 11. They converted 16 of 21 at the line, which was better than the 60 percent they were averaging. In a game like this, it all matters.
"DeCosey did what an all-city player does," Martelli said. "He put them on his back . . . [Miles] was really tough. And he thought his shot was going in. The first six games he shot because he was supposed to shoot it.
"I know what our team is. Our team is basketball flaws. But you can't be weighed down by them. This was the fifth game where the ball was in the air deciding who would win and who would lose."
This time, somebody got a hand in the way.
"Where the hell was he the first 39 minutes?" Martelli duly noted. "That's exactly the message that will be delivered tomorrow."