PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — They could have easily had their collective focus someplace else. Those things tend to happen when you’re about to take on the country’s No. 1 college basketball team. But Temple never wavered on Sunday at the Liacouras Center, vanquishing visiting South Florida rather handily, 77-65, and opening the door for the first big Philadelphia sports event of 2016 when No. 1 Villanova visits on Wednesday in a Big 5 showdown that will carry national implications.
READ MORE: Mother Of Cheltenham Township Single-Car Crash Victim Speaks Out After Incident Left 1 Person Dead, 4 Others Injured: ‘It's Horrible’
Temple took over sole possession of first place in the American Athletic Conference with the South Florida victory. The Owls, who won for a season-high fifth-straight time and for the eighth time in its last nine games, improved to 16-8 overall, but more importantly, 10-3 in the AAC, while USF fell to 5-21 and 2-11, losing for the fourth-straight time.
Temple was led by sophomore forward Obi Enechionyia and senior forward Jaylen Bond, who each scored a team-high 18 points. Bond added a game-high 14 rebounds. USF received a game-high 24 points from freshman guard Jahmal McMurray on 8-for-17 shooting, including a halfcourt buzzer-beater at the half. It marked the first time this season that Temple had five players score in double figures.
“There’s a lot more room for improvement,” Bond said. “I’m trying to crash the glass as much as I can. We still need to improve on our shot selection and how we play defense to be the best team we can be.”READ MORE: Cooling Tower Malfunction Caused Fire At Center City High-Rise, Source Says
With 2:04 left to play, Temple had its largest lead of the game, 77-61, on a layup by senior guard Devin Coleman.
Entering the game, the concern was whether or not Temple would be caught looking ahead at No. 1 Villanova. But the Owls trailed just twice early, going into halftime ahead, 40-31. Temple was up by as much as 34-19 with 7:30 left in the half. At one point in the half, Temple made 13 of 16 shots, thought went 4 for 20 in the final seven minutes of the half. The Bulls held two leads, 2-0, and 4-3. A big issue was turnovers. USF turned the ball over seven times in the half, which Temple converted into seven points. For the game, USF turned the ball over 21 times, which Temple converted into 27 points.
Villanova turns the ball over an average 11.6 times a game to Temple’s 9.3, but the Owls will be dealing with something different when it comes to the Wildcats, as opposed to South Florida, which entered the game near the bottom of the nation in turnovers, giving the ball up an average of 14.8 times a game.MORE NEWS: Amtrak Forced To Reduce Service Along Northeast Corridor Due To COVID-Related Staffing Shortage
“We shot fairly well throughout (the USF) game, but I don’t think we defended it very well,” said Temple coach Fran Dunphy, who watched his team allow USF to hit 27 of 49 shots (55.1%). “McMurray is a very hard guy to guard. He’s a tough guy for us. I wasn’t elated, because the defensive numbers weren’t very good for us. That’s always the first line you look for. I’m sure they heard Villanova talk after the Connecticut game. We need to play our best basketball every time out.”