Temple misfires in the NIT semifinals
Owls shoot 22 percent in the second half of a three-point loss to Miami.
NEW YORK - When you make it this far in the NIT, after getting your heart broken by the NCAA on Selection Sunday, you obviously want the ride to last all the way to the end.
But that's hard to do when you miss your last 16 shots from the arc, which is what Temple did last night at Madison Square Garden. The last was from the left wing, by Quenton DeCosey, with the clock winding down. It bounced off the back of the rim. And the season came to a close in the first game of the NIT semifinal doubleheader, 60-57, against a Miami team that had trailed by double digits late in the first half.
So the Hurricanes (25-12) will play Stanford (23-13) tomorrow night for the title.
The Owls (26-11), the last team not to get in the four-letter tournament, won't play again for 8 months.
"We didn't do enough, no matter what," said coach Fran Dunphy. "But to make it was tremendous for us. We'll take some confidence out of this ."
The future won't include senior lead guard Will Cummings, which of course will be a major loss.
"It's been a great career," said Cummings, who carries himself with class beyond his years. "It's hard to put in a couple of sentences. I'd do it all over again, and not change anything."
Added Dunphy: "He exemplifies what a good teammate is. He's been a terrific guy. I wish I had him again. But I have to say goodbye. He's as good a representative of Temple University as you'll ever hope for."
For a while, it looked like he would get one more game. The Hurricanes, who were playing without guard Angel Hernandez (sprained wrist), their second-leading scorer, lost forward Tonye Jekiri, their third-leading scorer, to a shot to his eye some 7 minutes in. He wouldn't return. The Owls would also get only 21 minutes from forward Jaylen Bond, who had leg cramps and went to the bench for good with 8 minutes to go and the Owls down a point.
Miami used a 12-4 run to take a 56-49 lead with 3:42 showing. Temple then scored the next six, with a driving lay-in by Cummings making it a one-point game at 44 seconds. A driving banker high off the glass over two defenders by Deandre Burnett at 0:35 put Miami ahead by three. After Decosey missed two foul shots, Sheldon McClellan made both ends of a one-and-one at 0:20. Cummings made a pair of freebies 5 seconds later, and when Burnett couldn't convert a front end, the Owls, with no timeouts, had a chance. But it wasn't to be.
"Shots just didn't go in," Cummings said. "That's really just all there is to it. Any other day, they are probably going in. We just didn't make them today.
"We got the shots that we needed. They just didn't fall."
The Owls went 2-for-19 from deep. Both makes came in the opening 6 1/2 minutes. They were 0-for-15 in the second half, when they shot 9-for-40 from anywhere. They finished 19-for-63 (30.2 percent).
"They were 22 percent , and that should win the game," said Miami coach Jim Larranaga, a native New Yorker. "Maybe only by three. But that's still pretty darned good defense."
McClellan, his top scorer, had 16. Nobody else had more than nine.
The Owls, who had only one second-half turnover, got a career-high 17 points from freshman forward Obi Enechionyia (5-for-9), to go with a career-best five blocks and eight rebounds, which tied his career high. Cummings had 11, but needed 15 shots. DeCosey (4-for-10, 1-for-3) had nine. And Jesse Morgan, who also played his final college game, added seven (and four steals) by going 3-for-10.
"Whenever I get going, the confidence goes up and everything gets a little easier," said Enechionyia. "I mean, I was just trying to keep our team in the game, just doing what I could. I knew someone had to step up, and I tried to make that me.
"It's something to build off of. We had a good season. Just having the kind of bad taste from this game and coming back and trying to be more successful next year. You can always do more. I just want to do more next season."
Temple was one of the last teams to still be playing. There's something to be said for that, even if it wasn't in the tourney it was aiming for all season.
And if the aim had even been maybe a little better this time, the Owls would have been going for a trophy. But as was the case with missing out on an NCAA bid, they came up just short.
"We just couldn't put it in the basket," Dunphy said.
There really isn't a whole lot more to know.