Down 12 with just under six minutes to go, Temple was going to need either a comebeack of Herculean proportions or an epic collapse to defeat Connecticut at home Thursday.
Luckily for the Owls, they got both.
Temple defeated Connecticut 63-58 by finishing the game on a 21-4 run that saw them knock down four straight 3s, including three by Daniel Dingle, he of the 21 percent 3-point marksmanship coming into the game. However, it wasn’t just Temple’s hot shooting that helped it pick up the win. Connecticut turned the ball over five times during this stretch, including on each of the final three possessions. Sterling Gibbs launched up a pair of shots that might as well have been turnovers. Basically, the Huskies went fully into passive basketball mode, and then couldn’t hit the gas late.
That’s exactly how you turn what looks like a sure win into a crippling defeat.
The Huskies are in a bit of a precarious spot in regard to the NCAA Tournament. At 17-7 and ranked 19th in KenPom, they look OK on the surface. However, they were No. 46 in the RPI coming into the night with only one top-50 win according to that metric. Undeniably, they still have some work to do if they want to go to the dance.
Temple also has some work to do if it wants to go to the tournament, but man it has to feel good about where it is as a team right now. At 15-8 and 9-3 in the AAC, the Owls are tied with SMU for the league’s lead and have the tiebreaker over the Mustangs (the two teams only play once this season, a win by Temple). They’ve won nine of their past 11 games, including a win over Cincinnati, the aforementioned SMU win and a sweep of Connecticut. Despite what is a pretty bad loss to East Carolina in that time, the Owls have pushed themselves squarely onto the bubble at this point.
Given that they were sitting at 6-6 on Jan. 3 following a loss to Houston, that’s some momentum moving forward toward a potential bid.