This game was ugly.
It started with alternate 10-0 runs as both teams took advantage of the fact that their opponent didn’t want to play defense early on.
It ended with a put back by Owls’ redshirt-freshman forward Anthony Lee that had no business even being possible after the ball touched two Buffalo defenders first.
In truth, Temple (8-3) really shouldn’t have won this game.
The Owls committed 11 turnovers and shot a mere 36.4 percent from the floor. Lee got bullied around in the frontcourt for the entire 25 minutes he played and the Bulls (6-4) scored 50 points in the paint.
But in a contest that was dominated by broken plays and offensive rebounds, and featured too many inexplicable plays to count, the Owls fought, scratched and clawed their way to a 87-85 overtime victory against Buffalo.
“If you’re telling me we won this game in a hard-fought fashion and found a way to do it, I’d be pleased,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “I’m hoping that’s going to become a signature for this team, that they find a way.”
Buffalo held a six-point lead with a little more than a minute remaining in the game, but were unable to hit their free throws to secure the win.
Senior guards Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore both hit three-pointers in the final minute that allowed Temple to tie the game and send it into overtime.
“It’s kids making big shots,” Dunphy said. “We made some big shots. That’s what it takes, guys having confidence in themselves who can step up and make big shots.”
The Owls did a better job on the offensive boards than the Bulls, grabbing 19 offensive rebounds that led to 19 second-chance points.
Moore and Fernandez said that taking opportunities that Buffalo handed to them was a key to the Owls’ victory.
“Not every game is going to have things go your way,” Moore said. “It’s very important to make those plays.”
“It matters how you play, but as long as you find a way to win the game, at the end, all you see is the scoreboard,” Fernandez added.
The Owls especially had trouble in the paint, as Lee had his hands full with Bulls’ forwards, sophomore Javon McCrea and senior Mitchell Watt. McCrea finished with 28 points and seven rebounds, while Watt scored 22 points and grabbed nine boards.
“[Lee] is a redshirt freshman who is tremendously undersized in width and girth,” Dunphy said. “He tried, but has a whole lot of work to do.”
“This was the worst defensive performance of my college basketball career so far,” Lee added.
Both Lee and Owls’ junior forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson were in foul trouble in the second half, forcing Temple, still in the absence of senior forwards Micheal Eric and Scootie Randall, to play shorthanded and undersized.
“We were shorthanded and playing with four guards most of the time, and they took advantage of that,” Fernandez said.
But somehow, despite the missing starters and its poor shooting performance, Temple found a way to win.
“I was pleased with some of the things we did, but other things we struggled with,” Dunphy said. “I think we’re going to have a lot of these down to the wire games, but we’re just going to have to figure out a way to survive.”