PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Temple got Will Cummings back on Saturday. Mark Williams also managed to play.
It just wasn’t enough for the Owls to get a win, not with all the problems they had inside against No. 24 Memphis.
Dalton Pepper scored 24 points, but Temple was dominated in the paint and lost 79-69 to the Tigers at the Liacouras Center.
“We’re still a work in progress,” Owls coach Fran Dunphy said. “I think we’re putting ourselves in decent position but we’re losing focus on a possession or two that changes the whole momentum of the game, so that’s what we have to correct.”
Shaq Goodwin had 23 points and 11 boards for Memphis (12-3, 3-1 American), which outrebounded Temple 45-28 and enjoyed a 42-26 advantage in points in the paint. The Tigers turned 16 offensive boards into 17 second-chance points, while Temple didn’t have a single point off an offensive rebound.
When Temple forwards Williams, Anthony Lee and Devontae Watson got into foul trouble in the first half, it helped clear up the interior for Memphis.
“There’s some things we need to tighten up and be better at,” Dunphy said. “Certainly, offensive rebounding by the opposition hurt us today. (Goodwin) is a tough matchup. He’s very aggressive and he had eight offensive rebounds and a couple of stickbacks that hurt us, too.”
Temple (5-9, 0-4) has lost four in a row.
Cummings, Temple’s leading scorer, left Thursday night’s loss to South Florida with concussion-like symptoms. He was cleared to play against Memphis shortly before the game and finished with 11 points, five assists and four turnovers in 29 minutes.
The junior guard said his performance was “not good.”
Williams also returned after sitting out Thursday with a sprained ankle. Sophomore forward Daniel Dingle remains out following surgery to repair a torn meniscus and is uncertain to return this season.
While the Tigers figure to move up in the polls, a short-handed Temple team remains winless in the conference. Eight of Temple’s nine losses this season have been by 10 points or less.
“I like how we hung in the game,” Pepper said. “We hung in until the end. One or two more stops, one or two more makes and we’re right there at the end of the game.
“Every game we’re right there. One or two more stops each game and we could be 12-1 or whatever it is. We’re playing well, we just have to close out games and just fight to the end.”
Temple led Memphis 49-48 with 13:46 to play but came undone after switching to a zone defense out of a timeout. After air-balling its first attempt against the zone, Memphis hit three quick 3s to spark a 17-6 run and a 10-point lead with 6:55 remaining. Michael Dixon Jr. hit two in a row and Chris Crawford added the third.
“We tried zone the one time and we just didn’t get out quick enough on two (shooters),” Dunphy said. “I thought we needed to change the look up. We were hoping we would be OK with it and obviously it didn’t work.
“They made shots, but I thought our coverage could have been better. I’ll have to watch the film and see how we kind of screwed that up a little bit. But they made big shots at that stretch and it hurt us.”
Quenton DeCosey had 18 points for the Owls. Both Pepper and DeCosey played the entire game.
“Dalton Pepper is a stud, Quenton DeCosey is a stud, and I think Will Cummings is really good,” Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. “I know (Cummings) is a little banged up from the game on Thursday but their perimeter players are really, really good.”
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