UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas - Deion Sanders was at Moody Coliseum on Thursday night, but the Temple Owls were not ready for prime time.
With the Hall of Fame cornerback looking on - as were Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, Mavericks center Samuel Dalembert, and Kansas City Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt - the Owls wilted under defensive pressure and lost, 75-52, to Larry Brown's Southern Methodist team.
The defeat was the Owls' 10th in their last 11 games, and their second straight lopsided loss. They fell to 6-15 and 1-8 in the American Athletic Conference.
Facing the AAC's best defense - SMU (18-5, 7-3) entered the night ranked third nationally in field-goal percentage defense (.372) - Temple's normally prolific offense crumbled. The Owls produced 23 fewer points than their season average of 75.8, and their .303 field-goal percentage was an eyelash above their season low of .302, set in a 72-58 loss to Clemson.
"It was more SMU's defense than anything else," coach Fran Dunphy said. "Their defensive scheme has been great all year, and they were really making it difficult for us to score. They set their mind on where our points were coming from and they shut it down."
That was evident from the statistics of Temple's top guns, who have combined for 83 percent of the team's scoring this season and all average more than 14 points per game.
Quenton DeCosey scored a mere six points on 3-of-12 shooting. Although Anthony Lee (12 points), Will Cummings (10), and Dalton Pepper (15) all made it into double figures, Pepper and Cummings combined to sink only nine of their 31 shots.
The Owls, hounded relentlessly, shot a miserable 23.3 percent (7 of 30) for the first half and trailed, 32-20.
On the other end of the floor, the Owls had no answer for Markus Kennedy, a 6-foot-9 Philadelphia native who has emerged as a force for the Mustangs since taking over as the starting center on Jan. 12.
The transfer from Villanova had 10 points and seven rebounds by halftime. He dominated inside with power and an array of spin moves. Kennedy finished with 14 points, as did SMU forward Shawn Williams.
The Owls now head to Houston to complete their two-game Texas swing on Sunday before returning home to face defending national champion Louisville on Thursday.