The Temple Owls topped the Southern Methodist University Mustangs, 89-80, this past weekend but it meant much more than just beating the eighth ranked team in the country. With an up-and-down start to the season, this win over Larry Brown’s formerly undefeated squad served as a huge step forward for the Owls in terms of consistency and confidence.
Consistency and confidence practically sums up the game for Temple, especially for senior guard Devin Coleman. Coleman scored a career high 23 points, shooting 7-for-7 from three and 8-for-8 from the field overall in just 25 minutes of play.
Despite the otherworldly offensive performance by the Philadelphia native, he downplayed his hot shooting and made sure it was known that his main priority was on the defensive end.
“If I make a shot, my next focus is to get back and complete my defensive assignment,” Coleman clarified.
Following the game, Coleman calmly said that he felt “nothing really” special about his hot shooting, implying that is was just another game.
Although it’s commendable for Coleman to deemphasize his career performance, it’s hard not to feel captivated by the perfect shooting display he put on, especially in a time where offense has been hard to come by for the Owls.
Prior to Sunday’s game against SMU, the Owls had averaged just 40-percent shooting from the field on the year, while in the two games before SMU, preceding their win against Big 5 rival La Salle, Temple shot under 40-percent as a team.
Against SMU? Temple ended the game shooting 46.6-percent overall, 48.3-percent from three and 70-percent from the free throw line.
And despite Devin Coleman stealing the show, nobody can discount the team’s offensive performance as a whole.
Eight Owls in total were able to put points on the board, including 14 points from Daniel Dingle and 19 from senior leading scorer, Quenton DeCosey.
After the game, DeCosey commented on how the game showcased to a national audience that Temple has the ability to hang with any team in the country once again.
“[This is] the third ranked team we’ve beaten,” DeCosey said. “It shows people that we can compete with anybody.”
SMU came into the game ranked as the eighth best team in the country, and with the victory, it marks the seventh time in the last eight seasons that Temple has beaten a top-ten opponent. Many may see this game as a signature win for the Owls as they can use it as a confidence booster in an attempt to start consistently winning against teams throughout the rest of their schedule, but for the team, the culmination of their recent success came after their last loss against Memphis.
“I think the turning point was after the tough loss against Memphis,” DeCosey said. “We came back and got two great wins and just built momentum coming into this game. We were ready from the start.”
This marked the second straight game that Temple shot over 46-percent and the first time this season that Temple has won three straight games.
In a year that has been puzzling in terms of consistency, it seems as though the Owls are finally beginning to find solidity in their play. If the Owls keep it up, they may see themselves back in the NCAA tournament after missing out on the big dance for the last two years.
“We lost three times to [SMU] last year, and that probably kept us out of the tournament,” DeCosey recalled. “It definitely motivated us to come in and seal the victory. It does a lot for our resume, they were ranked top-eight.”
Though ‘bubble’ talks have been looming, Temple still has a tough task ahead of them if they want to truly jump back into the tournament conversation. With big games against the AAC’s second-placed team, Tulsa, a nationally respected program in UConn, and currently, #6 Villanova, the Owls certainly have a chance to prove themselves to the committee. At the same time though, the tough schedule can sabotage Temple’s shot at the tourney if they don’t come away with victories down the stretch.
Their next test will be on the road at East Carolina against the Pirates on Wednesday, January 27th. Temple must win if they want to sustain a presence in the minds of the committee, and fresh off a win over SMU, the Owls have to take advantage of the momentum that they have built up through the past three games.
Photo: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports