Lee Kunkel (@Kunkel5)
Texas Southern head coach Mike Davis –who coached Indiana to the Final Four–said after the game, “This is by far the greatest offensive performance that I’ve ever witnessed.”
He was talking about a familiar face around the City of Philadelphia.
Aaric Murray has certainly had an up-and-down career over the years, but Wednesday night he came back to his home town, and showed just why he was one of the top-recruits in the country just a few years ago. The senior–who played his basketball at West Virginia last year, and La Salle two years ago–came out with vengeance, scoring 48 points on 20-28 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds in route to 90-89 victory.
After the Owls had cut the score to 69-62, Murray nailed back-to-back threes including one with the shot clock at two to expand the Tigers lead back to double-digits. Ray Penn Jr.–who finished with five points–helped out Murray by hitting a step back three as the shot clock buzzer sounded to help extend the Tigers lead to 78-69.
Dalton Pepper nailed a three to cut the Tigers lead to seven, and Quenton DeCosey matched his teammate by knocking down another trey cutting the Texas Southern lead to four, but guess who had the answer? Murray, with the crowd on their feet in the midst of an Owls run, got the ball on the post and powered his way through the Temple defense for the bucket and a foul.
The basket and made free throw gave him 44 points, the Liacouras Center scoring record (previously 43 points). A Cummings layup cut the lead to 83-80 and then Pepper came up with a steal and east slam to cut it to a one point Tigers lead. Murray had the answer. The senior got the ball on the post, split a double team, and laid it in with the foul to extend the lead back to three. Then, off a missed free throw, Murray soared for the board, snagged it above three Owls, and put it back in for an 88-83 lead.
Temple answered with a few big buckets down the stretch including a Daniel Dingle and-1. He missed the free throw but Anthony Lee was there for the put back. Lee made both free throws giving the Owls their first lead since the first half. On the ensuing possession, the Owls forced Murray to pass the ball out of a double-team and got the missed shot they were looking for, but could not secure the rebound.
Texas Southern grabbed the board, drew a foul and D’Angelo Scott (15 points, four rebounds) made both free throws to give his team the lead back. Will Cummings had one last look, but was unable to convert, and the Tigers walked away with a 90-89 upset.
In the first half Murray carried his squad, scoring 21 of the teams 45 first half points on nine-12 shooting from the field. He also created multiple open looks for his teammates with some beautiful passes out of tough double-teams. He picked up right where he left off out of the break, scoring his teams first eight points of the half with an array of power moves at the rim and jump hook over the Temple defense.
“I was just feeling good, just wanted to play well, play hard and get the win with my team,” Murray said. “Before the game it was nerve wracking, but after it was pretty exciting. Right now life is great, I’m enjoying my life and the game of basketball.”
While Murray was dominant, the Temple ‘D’–or lack thereof–certainly aided the Tigers. On multiple occasions the Owls failed to get back on defense after made buckets, including one that led to an outlet dunk by Murray. On the offensive end, Lee, Pepper, DeCosey, all had very good games. Pepper finished with 14 points including some big buckets left as the Owls made their comeback attempt.
Lee–who had to deal with Murray on the defensive end most of the night–went 8-13 from the field, and finished with 18 points and seven rebounds. DeCosey and Dingle were a big reason the Owls had a chance in this one. DeCosey finished with a career high 19 points (Temple’s leading scorer) on a super efficient 8-9 shooting. He paced the Owls in the first half with a team high 11 points going into the break, and hit some big shots late.
“I think he’s [DeCosey] maturing. I think he’s understanding how how good a player he needs to be on the other end [defensive],” Dunphy said. “I think he’s learning what it takes to be a college basketball player, and he can even be better than is.”
Dingle also delivered a career high with 13 points on 5-7 shooting, but the star of the show was Murray.
Dunphy took note of the impressive performance, saying “He came here and wanted to make a statement, and he certainly did.”
“It was very impressive obviously, it wasn’t much fun to watch but he was terrific,” Dunphy said. “As difficult as he was to guard inside–and we didn’t do a good job defending that–the two threes he made in the second half hurt us too. The one just kind-of fell in, that’s how soft a touch he has.”
Temple will get back in action this Saturday at the Barclays Center against LIU-Brooklyn. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:30 PM.