CHARLESTON, S.C. — A year ago, this was the kind of game that Temple would have found a way to lose.
This year, the Owls found a way to win.
Shizz Alston scored 23 points and Quinton Rose added 22 points and five assists to lead Temple past Old Dominion, 76-65, in the season opener for the Owls on Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the Charleston Classic at TD Arena.
Temple (1-0) will face Auburn, an 84-63 winner over Indiana State, Friday morning beginning at 11 a.m. with a spot in Sunday's championship game on the line.
A year ago, Temple had plenty of chances to put away close games in the final minutes, but a missed shot, a defensive lapse or the failure to win a 50-50 ball or grab a rebound would eventually cost the Owls the victory.
Against Old Dominion, the Owls were able to make those plays, hitting that big shot — none bigger than Rose's three-pointer with less than two minutes left in the game — or come up with a crucial defensive stop.
"We're fighters, I think we showed that today and that's what I like about this group," said Alston, who was 5 of 8 from three-point range. "We had that big lead in the first half and we knew they'd make a run at us. We were in that situation many times last year, so we were well prepared for that and responded."
Temple, which had not played since their exhibition game last week against Jefferson, looked like the team that had played two regular-season games during the first half.
The Owls connected on six of their first eight shots, including three three-pointers in the first five minutes, jumping out to a double-digit lead, 16-4, on Obi Enechionyia's three with 14 minutes, 35 seconds top play.
"I think it was a perfect game and in many ways also a microcosm of what happens during games and during the year," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy. "We played extremely well in the first half and made shots and looked like we were really a good basketball team.
"Then we showed some not-so-good things in the second half. We got it back in the end and had enough fortitude to score more points and win the game."
Old Dominion cut the gap to seven points, 33-26, on Michael Hueitt's jumper with 3:56 to play late in the first half, but the Owls finished with a flurry and grabbed a 46-29 lead at halftime. Temple was 8 of 12 from three-point range during the opening half.
"I knew Old Dominion was a good defensive team and that we were not going to be able to get the looks or the shots that we got in the first half again in the second half," Dunphy said. "I knew we'd have to find other ways to score."
The Monarchs slowly began to chip away at the Owls' lead. The shots that had been falling in the first half for the Owls were not in the opening 10 minutes of the second half.
An 18-5 Monarchs run was capped off with Aaron Carver's tap in that cut the Owls' lead to 54-53 with 9:14 to play in the game.
The teams exchanged baskets over the next seven minutes as neither squad was able to take control of the game.
A layup from Carver made it a one-possession game, 67-65, with 2:05 to play.
But Rose connected on a crucial three-pointer from the corner that gave the Owls a 70-65 advantage and Temple never looked back.
"Quinton hit a big-time shot in the corner," Alston said. "He's grown up his sophomore year. It's a big shot and that's a shot we didn't have last year."
Alston said Josh Brown, who finished with seven points, five rebounds and three assists, was also crucial in the victory.