TAMPA – On Friday afternoon South Florida coach Brian Gregory said that his team was going to face yet another challenge Saturday night.
Specifically, how would they respond at home against a tough Temple team after being dominated from start to finish in 78-65 loss at UCF on Wednesday night, a game that was not that close.
The Bulls have had an answer for most everything this season and Saturday night at the Yuengling Center was no exception in that they bounced back by playing a tight game. Unfortunately, they came up on the short end of 70-69 overtime decision.
The loss was USF’s second overtime setback against Temple this season. On January 12 they lost in Philadelphia, 82-80.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow,” said USF coach Brian Gregory. “At the same time, our fight and the execution of some of our gameplan stuff was really, really good today. So, you just have to keep moving on.”
The loss dropped USF, 17-8 overall, to 7-6 in American Athletic Conference play to remain in fifth place. Sixth-place Memphis (7-6 and a loss to USF) lost at UCF. Temple, which is in fourth, improved to 9-4 in conference play. The top four teams receive a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
“That’s never been something that we talked about,” said Gregory, whose chief concern is that this team continues to grow and learn together. “We want to play as many games as we can because every game we get to play we keep getting better and we keep learning different things. That’s the most important thing for us right now.”
Neither team could manage to make free throws at critical times, or seemingly any other time.
After Shizz Alston (game-high 24 points) made one-of-two to put the Owls up 70-69 with 1.5 seconds remaining in overtime, T.J. Lang lofted a pass to the other end of the court to David Collins. The sophomore guard was fouled by JP Moorman II with 0.8 seconds left.
Collins missed both free throws and Temple’s De’Vondre Perry cradled the rebound off the second miss and the horn sounded.
“We probably turned the ball over a little too much, especially in some critical spots,” said Gregory. “Give them credit. They made some plays. To win that game you have to make some plays and when you analyze it they probably made one more play than we did.”
USF has lost 11 in a row to Temple and all six games against the Owls in Tampa. With both of this season’s losses in overtime and by a total of three points, the Bulls gave the Owls a much better look this season than most previous matchups.
“They have a real good program here now,” said Temple coach Fran Dunphy, who picked up his 576th career win and who will be retiring after 30 seasons at Penn and Temple. “Brian has done a terrific job. I am really proud of him and the way his team plays. They play real hard and we were lucky to come out with a victory tonight.”
USF hosts Florida College on Tuesday afternoon. The game was scheduled earlier this month so the Bulls could get in another game after their trip to Charlotte on December 2 was canceled due to weather. They resume conference play at Houston next Saturday night.