In a game that showcased the talents of two seniors, Temple’s Dalton Pepper and Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati was able to hold off a surging effort by Temple late in the second half in Philadelphia. At one point Mick Cronin’s Bearcats led by 19 over Temple but with 36 seconds left, Dalton Pepper sunk in a three ball to tie the game at 76. That three gave Pepper a new career high of 33 points (27 in the second half). But following that shot Kilpatrick was fouled taking the ball in the paint with 7.2 seconds left and hit a pair of free throws to put the Bearcats up two. A last second layup attempt by Temple freshman Josh Brown was blocked away and Cincinnati’s Kevin Johnson was able to come up with the rebound to secure the win 80-76 after making a pair of free throws.
For Cincinnati, Sean Kilpatrick scored a season-high 29 points. But he was held scoreless in the last 13 minutes of the game with the exception of the two free throws after Fran Dunphy switched his defense to a box and one, with the one shadowing Kilpatrick everywhere on the court.
Early in the game the Bearcats lost senior forward Justin Jackson (11.6 pts, 7.3 rebs, 3.5 blks) to a sprained ankle, which left a big hole in their defense. Cronin’s defense hadn’t allowed a team to score over 70 points the entire season until today as his defense allowed a season-high 50 points in the second half, largely due to Dalton Pepper’s hot hand. Pepper shot 8-14 from behind the three point arc with the rest of the Owls shooting just 2-10. Coach Cronin said, “Well my biggest concern was their three point shot,” adding that some of Temple’s success was because “this game had a multitude of possessions because we were getting to the basket.”
Cincinnati still sits alone on top of the American Athletic Conference with a game and a half lead over last year’s NCAA champion, Louisville. But for Temple this loss keeps them winless in conference play and in last place despite their incredible second half effort. After his career day Pepper said, “Every game this year, except for last game (90-66 loss at Uconn), I feel like we could have won. It was our day but the way season is going, one bounce here and there and we can win.”
As a team Temple shot just 27 percent in the first half putting themselves down ten at the break. They ended the game shooting just 38 percent, while Cincinnati shot nearly 55. Stepping up for the injured Jackson was Shaquille Thomas who also scored a career-high with 15. For Cincinnati they have their toughest test of the season coming up on Thursday at Louisville in a battle for first place. Temple will try to end its eight game losing streak at home on Wednesday as they host Rutgers.