By: RICH FOGEL
After two tough road losses against Rutgers and UCF to begin American Athletic Conference play, Temple lost to USF in their first game at the Liacouras Center since December 18th. The Owls now are 0 and 3 in conference play and 5 and 8 overall, their worst start since the 2003-2004 season.
Will Cummings, Temples’ leading scorer (17.8 PPG), left late in the first half with concussion like symptoms and did not return.
With Daniel Dingle and Mark Williams’ already out with injuries, Fran Dunphy was left with only seven healthy bodies for the second half.
In the first half, Cummings could never get on track and only had two points before he got elbowed in the head and had to leave.
The teams traded leads four times in the first half and ended up going into the locker room tied at 34. Anthony Lee and Dalton Pepper each had 11 at half, and Victor Rudd paced South Florida with 12.
The Owls were not phased without their top scorer coming out of halftime as their lead ballooned to ten thanks to back-to-back three point field goals for crowd favorite Jimmy McDonnell who had a career high 10 points.
Lee continued his good play with timely shot blocks, transition baskets, and effective rebounding. Quenton DeCosey added two threes of his own during Temples 12-2 run which had them up nine with 9:22 to play.
South Florida made a run of their own behind Rudd and Corey Allen Jr. who had ten 2nd half points. Temple was having trouble gathering rebounds and fatigue could have started to become an issue. Freshman John Egbunu of South Florida had two monster alley-oops during the Bulls ferocious comeback and took the lead 70-69 with six minutes left.
After a Temple timeout, they recollected themselves and started to make a few shots as Lee added to his team high 22 points. Temple was able to tie it at 73 but they would never see the lead again.
Rudd and Allen Jr. were huge down the stretch as they combined for 18 second half points. Rudd led USF with 22 points on the night. A few costly misses at the line from Lee diminished the Owls comeback attempt. He continues to lead the conference in rebounding, adding 10 more tonight.
Temple is next in action on Saturday as they play Memphis at the Liacouras Center still in search for their first conference win.