The Temple Owls stewed for 11 days in the aftermath of a gut-wrenching overtime defeat against Texas on Dec. 7, so they were anxious to get back on the court and rid themselves of the bitter memory.
Then a familiar opponent with local roots added to the Owls' misery with a record-breaking performance Wednesday night at the Liacouras Center.
Aaric Murray, who faced the Owls six times during the two seasons he played for La Salle, exploded for 48 points, and Texas Southern (4-7) held on for a 90-89 win over Temple (4-5).
Murray, who grew up in Mount Airy and attended Glen Mills, scored more points than any opponent in Owls history. He also broke the Liacouras Center mark of 43 set by Lynn Greer in 2002.
"He came here and wanted to make a statement, and he certainly did," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy, whose team suffered its second straight one-point loss.
Murray's performance must rate among the best ever by an opponent of a Big Five team. The fluid 6-foot-10 center/forward did his damage in just about every way imaginable. He shot 20 for 28 while repeatedly beating the Owls down the floor with his speed. He hit baseline jumpers and scored with deft moves in the post. In the second half, he nailed consecutive three-point baskets to temporarily blunt Temple's comeback from a 14-point deficit.
"It's by far the best offensive performance I've ever witnessed as a coach," said Texas Southern coach Mike Davis, who led Indiana to the 2002 national championship game in 2002, a loss to Maryland.
At La Salle, the emotional Murray was at times a divisive figure. He transferred to West Virginia. While sitting out his transfer year there, Murray was charged with marijuana possession. Coach Bob Huggins suspended him for a team rule violation and Murray, who is a graduate student, moved on to Texas Southern for his final year of eligibility.
"Before the game it was nerve-racking, but now it's pretty exciting," a smiling Murray said of his return home. "I really don't want to talk about the past, but right now life is great."
Temple took its first lead of the game when Daniel Dingle hit a pair of free throws with 16 seconds to go, but the Tigers' Madarious Gibbs drained a pair of free throws and a desperation three-pointer by Will Cummings was off target.