PHILADELPHIA – One can say that the Temple Owls’ season has mimicked the likes of a roller-coaster ride so far. To put that image into perspective, prior to Sunday’s game against SMU, the Owls had lost no more than two games in a row or won more than two games in a row this season, proving that the Owls have been up-and-down all year. But with the only undefeated team left in college basketball coming into the snowy streets of Philly, Temple had one thing on their mind, and that was to win.
Behind a picture-perfect performance by senior guard, Devin Coleman, Temple topped #8 SMU, 89-80, but the victory meant more than just another game marked in the win column. The victory over Larry Brown’s formerly undefeated squad served as a huge step forward for Fran Dunphy’s Owls in terms of confidence and respect.
“Hopefully our conference gets a little respect,” SMU’s Brown said after the game. “And people recognize the quality of team that Fran has.”
In one word, quality practically sums up the game for Temple, more so for senior guard, Devin Coleman, than for anybody else who had played that day. In just 25 minutes of play,Coleman scored a career high 23 points, shooting 7-for-7 from three and 8-for-8 from the field overall.
Despite the outstanding offensive performance by the Clemson transfer, he downplayed his hot shooting and made sure that 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.
Coleman said that he felt “nothing really” special about his career performance, implying that it was just another game to be played and won.
Although it’s commendable for Coleman to deemphasize his efficient minutes, it’s hard not to not feel mesmerized 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 averaged just 40-percent shooting from the field, and two games before SMU, preceding their win against Big 5 rival La Salle, Temple shot under 40-percent as a team.
Against SMU however, 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 once again, that Temple has the ability to hang with any team in the country.
“(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 from the game and their first time this season that Temple has won three straight games.
In a season 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 them (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 second-place (AAC) Tulsa, nationally respected 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.