COLUMBIA, Missouri — Shizz Alston Jr. dribbles the basketball three times whenever he steps to the free throw line. He aims for the back rim as he releases the ball and — almost every time — watches the ball fall through the net.
Alston entered Tuesday's game against Missouri shooting 100 percent from the free throw line, but he missed two foul shots in the second half against the Tigers. Still, coach Fran Dunphy wanted Alston on the line with 11 seconds on the clock and Temple clinging to a two-point lead.
"When he got fouled, that was a good thing for us," Dunphy said. "You want the ball in his hands in crunch time."
Alston blocked out the shouts and waving hands in the Missouri student section and swished both his foul shots, putting Temple up by four. The Owls (6-1) hung on to win 79-77 over the Tigers (3-3). Quinton Rose led team with 18 points, and Alston finished with 15. The Owls forced 15 turnovers and committed only five of their own.
Missouri made the 2018 NCAA Tournament, but the Tigers' top two scorers from last year exhausted their eligibility. The team is also without sophomore Jontay Porter, a projected first-round draft pick who tore his ACL in a preseason exhibition. The game was the Owls first chance to play a team that made the 2018 NCAA Tournament, and Dunphy's players passed the test.
"It was big for us to get a Power Five win on our schedule for NCAA Tournament time," Alston said. "The committee can see that we went on the road and beat a pretty good team."
Alston ended the night by making two foul shots, and he started the game with a basket, too. He sunk a corner three for the Owls' first points of the evening. The shot started a back-and-forth first half that ended on three-pointer from — you guessed it — Alston.
After missing his first two shots of the game and committing a turnover, Quinton Rose scored six points in under two minutes. He hit a layup to tie the game at 11 with 13:45 to go in the first half. Missouri's Mitchell Smith responded by making a three and two free throws.
Rose hit a three-pointer with 9:18 left in the half, giving Temple a 21-20 advantage. Aside from a 3-2 advantage in the opening minutes, it was the first time the Owls led.
With the score deadlocked at 28 six minutes later, Missouri guard Mark Smith brought the ball for the Tigers. Rose thought the sophomore looked a little too relaxed, so he poked the ball out of his hands. The Temple junior surged toward the basket and slammed home a dunk to give the Owls a lead they never relinquished.
"My teammates, I saw they got hyped for me on the bench," Rose said. "That just gave us some energy going forward. We went on a run after that."
Temple got another breakaway when De'vondre Perry snatched the ball from Mark Smith's hands. Allston hit a three near the end of the half to send the Owls to the locker room up 42-32.
Missouri came out of halftime strong, starting on a 13-7 run, and a Kevin Puryear jumper in the paint forced Dunphy to call timeout. The Owls drew up a play, and it worked: Ernest Aflakpui made a dunk on the first play after the stoppage.
Whenever Missouri made up ground, Temple found answers. Mark Smith hit a three to cut Temple's lead to three, and the Owls responded with a Damion Moore layup. When the Tigers got within two points late, Alston's free throws silenced the home crowd.
Though Rose felt happy to leave Columbia with a road win, he said the Owls need to prevent opponents from going on runs like Missouri did. The Tigers shot 58 percent from three, which allowed them to keep the game close.
"Some of that was obviously their real good play," Dunphy said. "Some of that was our not paying attention to detail as much as we should have."
Temple delivered what seemed to be a knockout punch by capitalizing on a series of Missouri mistakes with 11 minutes remaining. The Owls forced a turnover to set up an Alani Moore three that put Dunphy's squad up eight. Then the Owls' J.P. Moorman stole Mitchell Smith's inbound pass and dunked the ball to give Temple a 10-point edge.
"They turned it (over) against our full-court pressure, which helped us a great deal," Dunphy said. "That's not something we live on, but these days we've been turning teams over at a pretty good rate."
Missouri found a second wind and climbed back into the game, and a Jordan Geist three-pointer cut the Temple lead to two with 1:15 remaining. Dunphy called timeout. The Owls regathered, just like they had all night. Alston hit Aflakpui with a difficult pass under the basket, and the center made a layup to put Temple up 76-72.
Geist hit a three following a Temple free throw, cutting the Owls lead to two. Missouri fouled Allston, who went to the free throw line and hit the game-clinching foul shots.
"It's just a very good win for us to come on the road and to play a program like Missouri," Dunphy said. "It was a tremendous opportunity for our group, and we sustained our good effort throughout."