CHARLESTON, S.C. — Temple players hugged each other in a circle, jumped around and chanted in celebration of their latest early season tournament title.
Owls coach Fran Dunphy’s happiness was tempered by the knowledge his team has a long, long road ahead before seeing if their fast start will pay off in March.
Shizz Alston Jr. scored 14 points including four clinching foul shots as Temple defeated Clemson 67-60 to win the Charleston Classic on Sunday night.
“This will make Thanksgiving taste a little bit sweeter,” Dunphy said. “But there’s a long way to go.”
Still, it was an historic start for Temple (3-0) which had never before won the first three games of a season away from home. Their Charleston victories included wins included a pair of Power Five opponents in Auburn of the Southeastern Conference and Clemson of the Atlantic Coast Conference. And it was their second straight early season tournament win after taking the NIT Season Tip-Off event a year ago.
“It’s a great way to start the season,” said Obi Enechionyia, who scored 12 points and was named the event’s most outstanding player. “We’ve worked all off season for this.”
Temple used an 18-7 run that spanned both halves to gain control. Josh Brownscored 13 points and had two of his three 3-pointers in that stretch. And when he knocked his final long-range basket with 13:02 remaining the Owls were up 50-36 and on their way to the victory.
The Tigers (4-1) cut things to 60-56 on Shelton Mitchell‘s driving layup with 51 seconds to go. Clemson had the chance to make it even tighter when Marcquise Reed stole the ball with 50 seconds left, but Donte Grantham‘s quick 3 was off the mark.
Quinton Rose hit two foul shots for Temple and Clemson could not catch up.
The Owls got a measure of Charleston-flavored revenge on Clemson, which topped Temple 76-72 to win this title in 2008. The Tigers were playing in their third Charleston final. They lost to UMass in 2013.
Alani Moore II also scored 12 points for Temple while Rose finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Mitchell led Clemson with 16 points. Reed had 14 points for the Tigers, 11 of them in the second half.
“We just got a little careless, a little excited and sped up,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said.
Temple: If the Owls can play like this, expect them to make plenty of noise in the American Athletic Conference this fall. Temple defeated Auburn of the Southeastern Conference to make the finals, then outhustled and out-muscled Clemson to win the tournament title.
Clemson: The Tigers were off kilter in the middle of the game, often failing to finish good looks near the basket. Clemson’s 6-foot-9 forward Elijah Thomas struggled to make an impact down low with six points. The Tigers will need more, much more, from Thomas to compete.
The Owls had a deep, strong chant they used to enter the court in all three games and did it as they left. When Enechionyia was asked what they were saying, he smiled and declined to detail it. “We’d like to keep that between us,” he said.
IS THAT …
Movie funnyman Bill Murray, who has a home in Charleston, was at the TD Arena to watch the tournament finals. Murray routinely pops up at area events and had on a zip-up vest with a Clemson tiger paw on it.
The game of the final day had to be Ohio’s four-overtime, 96-94 victory over Indiana State in the seventh-place game. The Bobcats were down 18 points in the second half and eight in the second OT before Mike Laster‘s bucket in the final extra period gave them the lead for good. Old Dominion defeated Dayton 75-67 to take fifth, while Auburn outlasted Hofstra 89-78 for third.
Temple plays at La Salle on Sunday.
Clemson returns home to face Texas Southern on Friday night.