CINCINNATI - With 25 seconds left in the first half against Cincinnati, the score tied at 26, Temple guard Shizz Alston grabbed the ball from Cincinnati's Kyle Washington at half-court. Without missing a step, he flipped the ball to freshman Quinton Rose for a quick layup and two-point lead.
It was a huge momentum boost against No. 20 Cincinnati, a team that had won eight straight overall and 18 straight at home. But Temple couldn't keep up with the Bearcats in the second half, losing, 81-74. Instead of another win against a ranked team, the Owls (10-10) fell to 1-6 in the American Athletic Conference.
"They're a wounded animal now, desperate for a 'W,' " Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said of Temple. "We won because we had some tremendous performances in the second half especially - unprecedented execution."
Cincinnati (16-2, 6-0 AAC) controlled the offensive pace of the game but initially struggled to convert against Temple's defense, shooting 33 percent before halftime. The Owls attempted just 18 first-half shots to Cincinnati's 33, thanks to nine turnovers. However, Temple was more efficient, shooting 61.1 percent for its strongest first-half shooting performance of the season.
Alston was dominant, contributing 10 of Temple's first 16 points. He finished with a game-high 25 points, tying his career high set Saturday against Tulsa, and a career-high five steals.
"Temple came in here, and they were a tough team - they weren't just going to lay down and let us beat them," said Cincinnati forward Kyle Washington, who finished with 16 points. "It was a rough halftime speech. We just needed to figure it out, relax, and see what Temple was doing."
Temple extended its lead to six immediately after halftime before the Bearcats figured it out. Cincinnati shot 73.9 percent from the field after halftime, hit nine straight field goals, and outscored Temple by 22-10 in the paint.
"A lot of their shots were easy," Alston said. "They had a lot of easy post-ups, and we had some tough looks. They were posting hard, and posting harder than us. They wanted to score more than we wanted to stop them, and that was the key for us."
The Bearcats extended their lead to 13 with six minutes left before Temple mounted a late comeback attempt, pulling within six with 21/2 minutes to go. Obi Enechionyia fouled out by hitting Cincinnati forward Gary Clark late on a layup, giving Cincinnati the three-point play.
Temple again pulled within five points with 21 seconds left, but foul shots secured the win for Cincinnati.
"We just didn't get to spots quickly enough, and we had a little bit of miscommunication at times," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "We didn't do a great job down inside, and . . . they did just about everything they needed to do right.