The crisp offense that Temple displayed in the first half against La Salle disappeared completely in the second, forcing the Owls to rely on good free-throw shooting and hustle down the stretch to earn a 58-57 Big Five victory over the Explorers Saturday at the Palestra.
Temple's Quenton DeCosey scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the first half and made 8 of 9 free throws in the game, setting the tone for a Temple team that sank 18 of 20 free throws.
The win improved the Owls to 5-3, 2-1 in the Big Five.
La Salle, which fell behind by as much as 20-8 in the first half before briefly taking the lead in the second, was led by Jerrell Wright's 15 points and eight rebounds. Jordan Price, who missed a key jumper late in the game that might have tied it, finished with 13, and Khalid Lewis and Cleon Roberts both added 12 points for La Salle (4-4, 0-2).
Temple built its early lead because it wasn't struggling with shooting, which has been a problem this season. The Owls connected on 11 of 25 shots, including 5 for 8 from behind the three-point line.
"I thought for the first 16 minutes of the first half we couldn't play a lot better on the offensive end," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "But then we gave the ball up a couple of times and they made their run to cut it to [35-29] at the half."
The Explorers took a 38-37 lead when Roberts sank a three-pointer with a little more than 15 minutes left to play.
The Explorers held the Owls to just 6-for-24 shooting in the second half.
"We kept fighting, trying to get back in the game," Wright said. "The slow start hurt us, but we were able to crawl back into it. They just made the plays at the end."
With the game hanging in the balance, Temple's Jaylen Bond (11 points, five rebounds, and a block) stole the ball from La Salle's Steve Zack (game-high 13 rebounds), who had just plucked a Will Cummings air ball. Bond scored on a layup that put the Owls ahead, 56-54, with 2 minutes, 8 seconds remaining.
La Salle's last chance to get the game to overtime or perhaps win in regulation disappeared when Price, following a timeout, missed a three-pointer on which he had a pretty good look.
"That was by design to win the game," La Salle coach John Giannini said. "I was happy with it."