Temple Downs @LATechHoops in NIT Quarterfinal
March 25, 2015
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - Temple hit nine three-pointers and led from start to finish as the Owls ended Louisiana Tech's National Invitation Tournament run with a 77-59 victory Wednesday night in quarterfinal action at the Liacouras Center.
With the victory, Temple (26-10) advances to the Final Four of the NIT at Madison Square Garden next week. Louisiana Tech (27-9) saw its season come to an end in the final game of the collegiate careers for Speedy Smith, Raheem Appleby and Michale Kyser.
The trio ends their collegiate career with three regular season conference titles, three NIT appearances and 101 total victories.
"This group was special," said head coach Mike White. "It's been tough. It's been tough since we lost at the conference tournament. It's been a tough couple of weeks. I am proud of the way we handled it, and the character that we showed. We had a couple of nice wins against some good teams in the NIT."
The Bulldogs made a living during the season with their non-stop-pressure, full court defense, but on Wednesday night Temple handled it, not allowing Louisiana Tech to get easy buckets in transition. The Owls committed only five turnovers in the game while shooting 49 percent from the field and 9-of-18 from beyond the arc.
"They were (really good) both times that we played," White said. "The goal was in front of us to get revenge. We just didn't play well enough. I thought we were a little lethargic early. The key for us was less pressure and keeping them out of the paint. I thought it resulted in a lower energy level. We scrapped it at the half. I said if we are going to go down, we are going to go down swinging."
Quenton DeCosey led the Owls with 21 points and 11 rebounds while Jesse Morgan added 17 points and Will Cummings 15 points and six assists. The threesome combined to hit 8-of-15 three-pointers.
"I thought Cummings and Decosey kept making plays," White said. "We just didn't play with the same energy level (as Monday night). We missed some easy shots early in the game, and I thought that was big. It was a tough game for us."
Temple scored the first five points of the game before a jumper by Erik McCree at the 18:15 mark got the Bulldogs on the scoreboard. A McCree three-pointer just over a minute later closed the gap to 8-7 before Temple made a run. Back-to-back three-pointers by Cummings and Jaylen Bond gave the Owls their first double digit lead of the game at 23-13 with 12 minutes remaining in the first half.
A Cummings layup with 7:03 to play in the opening half upped the lead to 34-20, the biggest of the first half by Temple. Tech fought back as buckets by Kyser, Smith and McCree in the final two minutes of the half cut the Temple advantage to 41-33 at the half.
"I thought we played with more energy near the end of the first half," White said. "I thought Speedy stepped up and got his hands on the basketball. I don't know how many times in the last few years we only forced five turnovers in a game. It was just really, really good guard play by them."
Tech made a run early in the second half as Alex Hamilton's layup with 18:44 to play pulled the Bulldogs to within 43-38. But once again the Owls answered as a Decosey three-pointer started a run that led to a double digit lead. Tech would be unable to cut the deficit to single digits the rest of the way.
"Decosey is so talented with the basketball in his hands," White said. "Those guys did what they wanted. Then Morgan makes two three's ... our focus was a little bit short. He nailed two big ones. It seemed like they hit timely ones. We would make a little run and then they hit some big ones every time."
McCree led Tech with 14 points while Kyser and Appleby ended with 10 points each. Smith ended with eight points and five assists before leaving the game with an injury mid-way through the second half.
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