PHILADELPHIA (AP) - After watching Connecticut guard Ryan Boatright’s stellar offensive performance in the first half, Temple’s Jesse Morgan decided he wanted to guard him.
Morgan held Boatright scoreless during a pivotal stretch at the start of the second half, and he also scored 17 points to help Temple defeat UConn 75-63 on Saturday.
Will Cummings had a team-high 23 points for the Owls (22-9, 13-5 American Athletic Conference), who closed the regular season by winning 10 of 12.
Boatright netted 25 points for UConn, but just four of them came after halftime.
“I was able to be aggressive, press up on him and defend,” Morgan said. “Keep the ball out of his hands and that was our main goal. It was just something I felt like I wanted to do just to help out as much as I can.”
Rodney Purvis added 18 points for the defending national-champion Huskies (17-13, 10-8), who likely will have to win the conference tournament to even make the NCAA tournament this season.
The Owls erased a five-point halftime deficit with a 15-4 run over the first 7:18 of the second half to go up 47-41. UConn went 0-for-7 from the field with a pair of turnovers, both by Boatright, during Temple’s run. It was quite a switch from the opening 20 minutes when Boatright, the conference’s leading scorer and top candidate for conference Player of the Year, was nearly perfect, scoring 21 points while shooting 6-for-8 from the field and 5-for-5 from the free-throw line.
“His length, his speed, his quickness and his commitment (on defense) was good,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said.
Dunphy said Morgan might get the call to guard other top offensive threats going forward.
UConn got as close as two on Purvis’ layup with 11:39 left, but Temple continued to play with the lead. The Owls extended their margin to a game-high eight points, 63-55, with four minutes remaining on Morgan’s 3-pointer. And Temple scored five of the next six points, capped by Obi Enechionyia’s baseline jumper with 2:31 to play, to take a commanding 68-56 lead.
Boatright attempted just four field goals, missing both 3-pointers, in the second half while the Huskies were just 7-for-20 after halftime.
“They did a great job of getting up in us and giving us fits,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “Other guys have to step up and make plays. You can’t just rely on Ryan.”
TEMPLE’S NCAA STOCK HIGH
The win was a boost for Temple, which looks in good shape to get back to the NCAA tournament after ending a six-year run in the tournament during a nine-win campaign last season.
“We’ve had a really solid year,” Dunphy said. “I thought we had a chance to be pretty good and we still have a long way to go.”
UCONN’S NCAA STOCK LOW
Meantime, in all likelihood, the Huskies will need to win four games in four days at the AAC postseason tournament, which begins Thursday in Hartford, Conn.
“We have a game on Thursday and we have to be tougher if we want to go anywhere,” Ollie said of his postgame message to his team. “I wasn’t even mentioning the NCAA tournament.”
The Huskies had been playing well, of late, with a win over then-No. 21 SMU among their three straight wins before Thursday’s home loss to Memphis, a game in which they shot 27.8 percent (15-for-54) from the field.
UConn was 32-8 last season but returned just two starters this season.
“Now we just have to win four straight to get back in the tournament,” Ollie said.
UConn: Despite dropping both meetings this season, the Huskies lead the all-time series 6-5. . The Huskies lost at home to Temple 57-53 in overtime on Dec. 31. . UConn is the No. 6 seed in the AAC tourney.
Temple: Cummings scored in double-figures for the 12th straight game. . The Owls will be a No. 3 or No. 4 seed in the AAC tournament, depending on Sunday’s outcome between Memphis and Cincinnati.
Both teams will compete in the American Athletic Conference tournament March 12-15 in Hartford, Conn.
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.