St. Joseph's had a 12-point cushion at halftime, but the Hawks had to stave off a furious Temple rally to earn a 58-56 victory over the Owls on Wednesday night in a Big Five matchup at Hagan Arena.
Isaiah Miles led the Hawks (4-3) with a career-high 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds. DeAndre' Bembry added 11 points for the Hawks. Quenton DeCosey led the Owls (4-3) with a game-high 22 points. Will Cummings finished with 13 for Temple.
Trailing by 53-42 with a little more than five minutes to play, Temple outscored St. Joe's by 14-5 and pulled to within 58-56 with 11 seconds remaining.
But that's when the 6-foot-6 Bembry exploded off the floor and emphatically blocked Cummings' layup attempt. The Owls had one last shot at victory, but that slipped away as DeCosey missed a runner with one second left in the game.
"He got there so quick," Cummings said. "I thought I made the layup."
"Dre is a freak athlete," Miles said of his teammate. "When I saw him running, I knew he had it. As soon as he took off I said, 'Yup, that's a block.' "
The Hawks switched up their defense in the first half, showing a lot of zone but mixing in some stingy man-to-man. The Owls never figured it out and connected on just 7 of 21 shots before intermission.
"Mixing the defenses in the first half certainly made an impact," St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said.
However, Martelli was displeased with the way the Hawks played in the second half, when Temple outscored them, 34-24.
"I would expect more fire from our team," Martelli said. "For whatever reason, it was a little casual. We'll address that tomorrow. We have a lot of things that we have to correct. . . . But we're not a finished product in any way, shape, or form."
Still trying to figure out how to get better at the offensive end, Temple got back in the game by playing more zone defense and less man. That helped the Owls hold the Hawks to just 6-for-24 shooting in the second half.
It just wasn't enough.
"Yeah, they struggled against the zone, as most teams will do, as we did in the first half," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "So it helped us a little bit and helped us create some turnovers. Late in the game when we had a chance to win, I thought some of our guys just didn't knock down some clean looks."