San Juan, Puerto Rico, November 19, 2015 – The Temple Owls went on a wild roller-coaster ride Thursday afternoon, a trip that ended with them posting a 75-70 victory over Minnesota in the opening game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
The Owls (1-1) opened the second half by connecting on seven of their first nine shots to build a 48-39 lead at the 13:44 mark. Temple then went more than 6½ minutes without making a shot from the field, enabling Minnesota (2-1) to go on a 17-2 run for a 56-50 lead.
But the Golden Gophers’ advantage was erased in a 26-second span, as Devin Coleman sank a 3-pointer and Trey Lowe made a fast-break layup and foul shot to tie the game at 56 with 6:39 to play. That started the Owls on a 15-2 run of their own, giving them a 65-58 lead with less than four minutes left, and they maintained at least a three-point edge the rest of the way.
“We did a good job in getting that nine-point lead, then we played poorly to lose it, but then we got it back together again and played very well from that point on,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said.
The key moment game when it looked like the Owls were about to go completely off the rails. They committed turnovers on three consecutive possessions – “a formula for disaster,” Dunphy said – and kept fouling Minnesota guard Nate Mason, who made 11-of-12 free-throw attempts and finished with a game-high 20 points.
But then Coleman drained a 3-pointer from the top of the arc, and suddenly Temple’s free fall was over.
“Once that one shot fell, that sparked things for us,” said Temple senior forward Jaylen Bond, who had a team-high 19 points and eight rebounds. “That picked things up for us and our offense was able to flow more.”
Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said the main problem for his team down the stretch was a sudden rash turnovers, including three occasions when a player simply stepped out of bounds.
“There were some mistakes toward the end that really hurt us. The stepping out of bounds stuff was very odd to me,” Pitino said. “There were a couple of opportunities where we got stops but we didn’t get the rebound. Those were crucial. We gave them 12 offensive rebounds. We just didn’t close it out.
“At the end of the day they made plays and we didn’t. It was anybody’s game there for a while. But overall we competed. It was a learning experience. We just have to get ready to fight back tomorrow.”