Temple edges out win over ECU behind Dunn game winner
Interim coach Monté Ross drew up an action in the huddle Saturday afternoon at the Liacouras Center to give Temple a clean look at the rim, tied with ECU at 75 and with less than 10 seconds on the clock.
Then Damian Dunn, who hit a game-winning triple just three days earlier at UCF, spoke up saying he wanted the ball.
Dunn was being guarded closely but got a hold of the ball in the final seconds. He sidestepped to the right wing, let it fly and hit a 3-pointer as time expired, propelling Temple to a 78-75 win.
"You love when players say things like that because they have confidence in themselves," Ross said. "It exudes from them and gives you confidence in them. I'm glad he wanted that ball and asked for it."
It was his third game-winning three this season with prior shots against Vanderbilt and the Knights. This one put Temple at 9-6 on the season and 2-2 in conference play.
Dunn hit five three pointers all of last season on 27 attempts. He didn't credit his improved shooting performance to anything more than simple repetition with early mornings and late nights in the gym.
His production since Khalif Battle's season-ending injury has been nothing short of masterful.
"It's just a lot of work," Dunn said. "Work behind the scenes."
Up next, the Owls are set to travel to Tulsa, tipping off at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 12. The Golden Hurricane will be fresh out of a COVID-related pause that included the postponement of their game against Central Florida on Jan. 8.
Ross served his second consecutive game as Temple’s interim coach. He’s expected to return to his role as associate head coach against Tulsa with Aaron McKie clearing the team’s COVID protocol on Sunday.
Early shooting woes
After a 7-0 run to open the afternoon, Temple’s shooting quickly dissipated.
With some success pinging the ball around the floor, getting multiple guys involved in the flow of the offense, the Owls struggled to hit shots at every level early on.
"You go out on a team 7 to nothing, you're not going to hold them scoreless. They're going to make a run. Especially a team like East Carolina," Ross said. "They have talent at every single position that can go for 20."
Temple's shooting picked back up in the second half finishing 28 of 57 from the field (49.1%) including 7 of 25 from three-point land (28.0%) in the win. It wasn’t the same story for EVU, which hit 26 of 51 (51.0%) attempts from the field and 7 of 15 from three (46.7).
Dunn led the way for the Owls, pouring in a career-high 33 points. With 2:44 remaining in the first half, he buried a triple, initiated contact with the defender and fell to the floor. The officials gave Dunn a warning for flopping.
Nonetheless, his career scoring day helped propel Temple to the win highlighted by an ice-cold game winner.
Freshman forward Nick Jourdain was behind him on the stat sheet with a career-high 16 points. He instilled some life into a Temple team struggling to score with a deep straight away 3-pointer and a pair of rim-rocking dunks.
While Dunn and Jourdain combined for 62 percent of Temple’s points, ECU’s scoring attack was much more balanced. It was headed by Alanzo Frink’s 15. Five others scored eight or more.
Midway through the second half, the officials assessed a technical foul to Temple’s bench. Ross said postgame it was explained as Temple’s players saying something to ECU players.
The game began with few charged penalties and referees letting both teams get away with some contact. That didn’t last long. As the game progressed, they started calling things a bit closer, riling up the Liacouras Center fans.
"In basketball it goes both ways," Ross said. "Some calls you like and some calls you don't but it all evens out."
Jourdain fouled out, Dunn played a majority of the second half with four, and Williams finished with three, a few of which they would likely want back.