Coming into Saturday night, the 2019-20 edition of the Temple Owls was ranked 14th in Division I in defensive efficiency. The Missouri Tigers were coming off a loss to Charleston Southern, their third loss in a row.
It’s safe to say this— a 64-54 win over Temple in Philadelphia was a bit unexpected.
It was unexpected. It was also HUGE.
This Temple team already has three wins over power five programs, and showed just how competitive it can be with a hard-fought loss to No. 3 Maryland.
The Owls showed why they were ranked too high in defensive rankings to open the game, forcing Missouri into the same slow offensive start that has plagued it so much this year. Unlike the games in Kansas City, the Tigers did not look up and find themselves down double-digits.
Temple was ice cold and turnover-prone, and Missouri finally found offensive production from behind the three-point line, with a 5-8 stretch as a team to go up by as much as nine with 4:15 to go in the half. The run was fueled by an offensive explosion from Javon Pickett, who scored nine in the first half alone, and 16 on the night.
A Dru Smith jumper with 16:05 remaining in the second half put Missouri up 39-33 after Temple had chipped away, and the Owls found another run, fueled by the play of Monty Scott.
After a disastrous 12-0 run, you could be forgiven for seeing ghosts from the Oklahoma, Butler and Charleston Southern games and seeing the writing on the wall. Shots weren’t falling, fouls were piling up, and Temple was heating up.
Dru and Mark Smith alluded to it during media day Friday morning. There is no quit in this team. Despite finding themselves on the wrong end of another poor run, the Tigers found a way to keep fighting. Missouri stopped letting Temple get to the rim and the free throw line, and managed to sustain efficient offensive production.
Over the last 6:29, Temple had just one field goal. Mark Smith exploded off a screen to nail his only three pointer of the night to put Missouri up by five, and the Tigers sealed the game off of beautiful layup by Xavier Pinson with 39 seconds left. Pinson finished with just seven points, but his last two layups were works of art, coming at extremely crucial moments.
Missouri’s offense was improved Saturday, but by no means impressive. Missouri shot 21-54, 8-29 from three. It was Temple that went ice cold down the stretch, though, struggling to get off good shots and take care of the basketball. The Owls finished with 19 turnovers, compared to 14 for Missouri.
This does not mean the season is magically back on track. It doesn’t erase what happened Tuesday night, but it is a big start. The Tigers improve to 5-4, breaking a three game losing streak. Temple could turn into a Q1 win come season’s end, and with a win Sunday over a 4-6 Southern Illinois squad, there just might be some momentum built heading into the Braggin’ Rights game.