It was a night to lament that the shot clock ever made its way into college basketball. Because if UB didn’t have to shoot then the Bulls wouldn’t have missed as frequently as they did, which was most of the time and more in a numbing 54-39 loss to Temple Wednesday night before 3,201 at Alumni Arena.
The Bulls (2-6) have found offense a struggle all season but descended deeper into darkness against the Owls (4-0). Instead of turnovers doing them in, as has been the case this early season, the Bulls drowned in a sea of misfires that saw them shoot 23.1 percent in the first half and barely better until the final, irrelevant minutes of the second. They broke 30 points on their home floor on a Javon McCrea dunk off a loose ball with 4:37 remaining and narrowly eclipsed the Alumni Arena low that came in a 63-35 loss to Miami (Ohio) back in 2003.
“I thought they had a lot of open looks in both halves that didn’t go down for them,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “So our defense was good but it wasn’t great. I think it was just one of those grind-it-out kind of games and we prevailed.”
UB coach Reggie Witherspoon concurred.
“This is a game where if all that stuff’s going wrong you got to clearly grind it out,” Witherspoon said. “That’s new for some of these guys. Even guys that were with us and played a lot last year, were they in those grind-it-out moments?”
At least UB played defense. Temple, off to its first 4-0 start since 2000-01, came in averaging a hair under 80 points but didn’t make it to 50 until 1:37 remained. The Owls finished 18 of 51 from the field and got just four points out of leading scorer Scootie Randall (21.6 ppg).
McCrea was the only Bull in double figures, scoring 14. Will Regan added nine. Anthony Lee topped Temple with 10, eight of those in the first half.
UB started the second half strong, making three of their first five shots, but failed on three chances to cut the deficit into single digits. On one of those possessions the Bulls ran a full 35 seconds of offense and ended up with a desperation baseline three attempted by Jarod Oldham. It deflected out of bounds off the side of the backboard and it wasn’t long before Temple again had opened distance. A Quenton DeCosey drive and another DeCosey basket off a loose ball made it 40-22 with 11:37 remaining. At that point the Bulls had missed five straight shots, a decidedly minor slump compared to what transpired earlier.
It was a first half of horrors for UB. The Bulls missed 13 straight shots at one point. They turned it over nine times. The were soundly beaten on the boards. And they headed for the locker room trailing 31-16 in one of their more ghastly Alumni Arena performances in recent memory.
The Bulls were even at 2-2 as McCrea scored inside on their third shot of the game. Then they started to miss and just kept missing, falling behind 13-2 before Tony Watson ended a run of 13 straight clanks by making a three with 9:06 remaining. It got better from there, but only relatively so.
UB had its share of decent looks from the perimeter but went 2 of 10 from behind the arc. That spate of misfires made life difficult on McCrea as Temple collapsed its defense down low whenever the Bulls managed to get it inside. Frustrated, McCrea forced some shots and went 2 for 7 in the half for four points.
“”I thought we did a pretty good job on him,” Dunphy said. “He missed some easy shots too. They all did.”
“As a perimeter player you have to be able to shoot, especially in our offense,” Watson said. “And when a team allows you to shoot, we either don’t shoot the ball or miss the shots and it puts a lot of pressure on the other players on the team, especially the post players because now their other players can dig in on our post players.”
Temple was 12 of 24 from the floor in the half and outscored the Bulls 16-8 in the paint. Lee, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, feasted inside with eight points on 4-of-5 shooting.